Zimbabwe crisis talks break down

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The Independent Online

Power-sharing talks to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis were deadlocked last night after four days, with the opposition unhappy about President Robert Mugabe's proposal to make their leader Morgan Tsvangirai the third vice-president instead of prime minister.

The two vice-presidents Mr Mugabe has at the moment are largely ceremonial, with all executive power in the hands of the only president Zimbabwe has ever known. The proposal to make Mr Tsvangirai a third vice-president was regarded as an insult by his Movement for Democratic Change party. "It's a joke ... we won't go anywhere near that," said an opposition official. "When they floated that proposal ... we decided there was no point in proceeding with the talks."

Mr Tsvangirai, who won most votes in the first round of elections in March before pulling out of a June run-off, arrived in Johannesburg yesterday and was consulting with his negotiators. It was reported that Mr Mugabe's two top men at the talks had left the table to consult him in Harare.

Zimbabwe's security chiefs, led by Constantine Chiwenga, are believed to be stumbling blocks to a speedy solution to the crisis. They oppose plans to name Mr Tsvangirai prime minister, even without powers, fearing it would elevate his stature and disrupt Zanu-PF's succession plans.

"It would be handing over power on a silver platter. There are Zanu people seriously opposed to such an arrangement. These are not Mickey Mouse characters," said a Zanu politician.

It is hoped the South African President and official mediator Thabo Mbeki can get negotiations moving.