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Zimbabwean ruling, opposition parties sign power-sharing deal
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09:20, September 16, 2008

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The Zimbabwean ruling and opposition parties on Monday formally signed here a power-sharing deal which is aimed at solving the political and economic crisis in the country.

The deal was inked by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who headed the ruling ZANU-PF party and opposition leaders at the Rainbow Towers hotel in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare.

Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)led by Morgan Tsvangirai reached the power-sharing deal last Thursday.

Under the deal, Tsvangirai will become prime minister and a smaller opposition group's leader Arthur Mutambara will serve as deputy prime minister. The Zimbabwean new cabinet will comprise 31members, 16 of them drawn from the opposition.

More details of the agreement will be revealed formally later this week, agencies reported.

Tsvangirai said at the signing ceremony that as the prime minister designate, he called for a unity of all supporters of the ZANU-PF and the MDC. "Divisions belong to the past," he added.

The deal was signed in front of several African leaders, including Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who is serving as the rotating chairman of the African Union, and South African President Thabo Mbeki mediating the accord.

The European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana said later on Monday that the bloc will probably decide to change its sanctions against Zimbabwe due to the signing of a power-sharing agreement in the African country.

"The sanctions for the moment will not be changed today. The decision will probably be taken in October," Solana told reporters before attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

He noted the European bloc needed to analyze the deal.

The substantial development in the on-again, off-again talks came after Mugabe issued an ultimatum earlier that he would go ahead unilaterally with naming cabinet ministers if Tsvangirai did not sign the power-sharing agreement by last Thursday.

Zimbabwe held presidential and parliamentary elections on March29, in which presidential candidate Tsvangirai received a leading number of votes but failed to win outright.

The ZANU-PF lost its Lower House majority for the first time since the country's independence from Britain in 1980, but the MDC won the majority by only a narrow margin.

Negotiations began in July to resolve the impasse resulting from Mugabe's unopposed re-election in June. The vote was boycotted by Tsvangirai who accused Mugabe's ruling party of backing the violence against the MDC supporters.

Tsvangirai demands the lion's share of power in the unity government, insisting on respecting the results of the first round of polls, trying to place Mugabe in a largely ceremonial position of head of state, which Mugabe refused to accept, according to reports.

The negotiations were very close to a breakthrough on the eve of the Southern African Community Development summit held in mid-August, but later stalled as Tsvangirai requested to "reflect and consult" on a sticking point in the dialogues.


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