Zimbabwe's opposition has 'lost faith in talks'

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Zimbabwe's main opposition party has lost faith in power-sharing talks with President Robert Mugabe and will leave him to form a government alone rather than be forced into a deal, a party official has said.

The official, who asked not to be named, said the Movement for Democratic Change no longer had confidence in the mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki and wanted the United Nations and African Union to rescue the process.

Talks are deadlocked over how to share executive power between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, putting off any chance of rescuing Zimbabwe from its economic collapse.

"We have lost confidence in this process. They can go ahead and Mugabe can form his government, we will not be a part of that circus," the official said.

"He (Mbeki) is trying to rush us into a deal. The unfortunate thing is that Mbeki is trying to help Mugabe achieve his ends, not to solve the crisis."

State media said Mugabe had given Tsvangirai until today to sign a deal or he would form a government himself. Mugabe, in power since 1980, was quoted as saying Zimbabwe could not afford a situation where "we will not have a cabinet forever."

But Tsvangirai's party said any attempts to force it into a deal would fail.

"Where on earth have you seen dialogue held on the basis of threats and ultimatum? They want to bully us into an agreement, but that's completely unacceptable," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

Few options

Despite the manoeuvring, analysts believe neither side has much option but to agree a deal eventually.

"There are two possible outcomes, either Tsvangirai gives in or the deal collapses," said Lovemore Madhuku, a law lecturer and chairman of political lobby group National Constitutional Assembly.

"But I don't see Mugabe conceding any more ground than he has already done, and if Tsvangirai continues to refuse what is on the table, the MDC will have to decide on where it goes from here," Madhuku added.

The MDC official said the opposition party had other options: "We are looking toward the African Union and the United Nations to rescue this process and take it forward."

Tsvangirai has rejected a proposal he says gives Mugabe control of Zimbabwe's powerful security forces.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in a March 29 election but fell short of enough votes to avoid a June run-off vote, which was won by Mugabe unopposed after Tsvangirai pulled out citing violence and intimidation against his supporters.

The election was condemned around the world and drew toughened sanctions from Western countries whose support is vital for reviving Zimbabwe's ruined economy.

Zimbabwe state radio said Mbeki was expected to arrive in Zimbabwe on Thursday to continue mediation efforts. Mbeki's spokesman said there was no truth to the reports.

Mbeki, criticised for not being tough enough on Mugabe, was expected to meet both Tsvangirai's group and the MDC's breakaway faction led by Arthur Mutambara, whom analysts say has emerged as a kingmaker and has moved close to Mugabe.

Mbeki was expected to propose that that all of Mugabe's executive powers should be discussed and ways be found of dividing them equally with Tsvangirai, said the newspaper.

Zimbabweans are suffering from the world's highest inflation rate of over 11 million percent, and chronic food, fuel and foreign currency shortages that have driven millions over borders and strained regional economies.