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Zimbabwe opposition contests power-sharing claims

Southern African leaders ended an all-night summit on forming a unity government in Zimbabwe but the regional leaders and representatives of Zimbabwe's opposition disagreed on the results.

In a communique early today, the main regional grouping said it had been decided to swear in a prime minister, the post the opposition leader is to hold in the unity government, on February 11, after passing a constitutional amendment creating the post on 5 February.

But Nqobizitha Mlilo, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party, said after the communique was issued early today that was not the case.

"The MDC has not agreed to go into government of national unity," he said. He said party leaders would meet on Friday to decide on their next step.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is the current chairman of the regional grouping, told reporters after the communique was read that the opposition had agreed to that formula.

"They will ensure that (the Constitutional amendment) is executed and they will present themselves" for the government, he said.

But the opposition released a statement soon after criticising the communique: "Quite clearly, the conclusions reached as reflected fall far short of our expectations," the opposition said.

The opposition has consistently resisted pressure to join a coalition with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe until a dispute over how to share Cabinet posts is resolved.

The opposition also wants attacks on dissidents to stop before it enters into the unity government first agreed to in September.

Mr Mugabe's party and the regional grouping say the opposition should first enter into government, then resolve outstanding issues.

The impasse has kept politicians from addressing Zimbabwe's spiralling economic crisis.