Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Zim opens talks with opposition

Members of Zimbabwe’s government and its political opposition met in Pretoria over the weekend for their first face-to-face talks since South Africa was asked in March to mediate between them....

Efforts to make peace between the government and the opposition have been virtually stalled since Zimbabwe’s president, Robert G. Mugabe, agreed to the talks under pressure from southern African political leaders at a regional meeting in March.

Leaders of the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, had gone to Pretoria to begin the talks several weeks ago, but government negotiators did not show up. Last week, the police confiscated the passport of one of the opposition leaders, Arthur Mutambara, the head of a breakaway faction of the opposition group....

In recent days, however, Mr. Mugabe has seemed to soften his stance. Last week, a government-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, reported that Mr. Mugabe had distributed tractors and plows to a clutch of political leaders, including opposition politicians, saying: “There must be occasions when we must be together. After all, we eat together.”

The gesture was almost unprecedented for Mr. Mugabe, who calls his political opponents tools of Britain and the United States and has openly threatened them with beatings.

Opposition leaders dismissed the remarks as political theater....

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