9 Aug 2008

Zimbabwe power sharing talks reach milestone

11:00 pm on 9 August 2008

A spokesperson for Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe says talks between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition have reached a milestone.

But George Charamba declined to comment on whether a power sharing deal is imminent.

He says the Zimbabwe mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, will meet with both sides in weekend talks and consult them on moving the dialogue forward.

Mr Mbeki is due in Harare for talks with Mr Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

He has been mediating between the two sides, which have been holding talks in South Africa for more than a week.

Despite a news blackout imposed on the discussions, reports suggest a power-sharing deal may be close.

Mr Mugabe won a run-off in June after Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of the race alleging violence against his backers.

South African mediators say that talks are aimed at creating some form of coalition but there is disagreement over who would lead a unity government and Mr Mugabe's exact role.

South Africa's media report that the power sharing deal would see Mr Mugabe retaining the presidency and Mr Tsvangirai becoming prime minister with executive powers.

However, there has been no official comment on these reports, apart from statements from all sides that the talks have been progressing well.

Mr Mbeki is expected to return to South Africa on Sunday afternoon.