Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: MDC to seek arbitration if deadlock persists

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by Cuthbert Nzou

HARARE - Zimbabwe's prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai has told foreign diplomats that he will push for international arbitrators to step in to break a deadlock over formation of a unity government if African mediators failed to resolve the matter.

Tsvangirai met diplomats from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) and Development countries on Wednesday. Yesterday he met African ambassadors accredited to Harare to brief them on a power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe that has stalled over who should control key ministerial posts in the unity government.

Diplomatic sources said during the meeting with diplomats from the OECD, the opposition MDC party leader said the main outstanding issue on the allocation of ministries was home affairs and accused Mugabe of not being sincere.

He told the diplomats that he did not travel to Swaziland to attend a summit of the regional SADC grouping's security Troika on Monday because Mugabe's government was refusing to issue him a new passport.

"He said the refusal to grant him a passport was symbolic sign of insincerity on the part of government," a Western diplomat said. "Tsvangirai insisted that home affairs was the bottom line."

The diplomats said Tsvangirai told them that if the 15-nation SADC and the African Union (AU) - the guarantors of the September 15 unity government deal - fail to unlock the impasse, he would push for the establishment of an arbitration group to deal with the deadlock.

"Tsvangirai said the arbitration group would have to be made up of African and international statesmen to deal with the deadlock," another diplomat said. "He said the group would have to be formed through a mutual agreement between ZANU PF (Mugabe's ruling party) and the MDC."

Those present at the meeting held at the Spanish ambassador's residence were diplomats from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Austria, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Portugal.

Yesterday, Tsvangirai spoke to African diplomats about what he described as Mugabe's lack of sincerity in the talks; disrespect for African leaders and institutions; deception; acting in bad faith and giving MDC responsibilities without authority.

Tsvangirai is said to have expressed frustration with the way Mugabe has been behaving since the signing of the main agreement last month.

It is understood he also dealt with the issue of former South African President Thabo Mbeki who he said was not impartial.

This followed Mbeki's report to the SADC troika, in which he endorsed Mugabe's unilateral decision to allocate all key ministries including defence, justice, foreign and home affairs to ZANU PF.

The report also backs the decision to give finance to MDC while home affairs would be rotated between Tsvangirai's party and ZANU PF.

Tsvangirai said the fallout over his passport, which he said symbolised the limit on freedom of movement and other liberties, was evidence that Mugabe was not sincere. He also wondered why Mugabe flew to Swaziland in a state airliner, using public resources and left him behind.

Talks broke down last week largely over home affairs.

However, the MDC says there is still a problem over ministries of local government, foreign affairs, lands and agriculture, information, women, youths, justice and defence. Although defence has gone to Mugabe as the head of state and government, the MDC is using it to bargain for home affairs.

The failure by Mugabe and MDC leaders to agree on ministries has taken back the Zimbabwe crisis into the international spotlight.

MDC-Tsvangirai spokesperson Nelson Chamisa confirmed his leader's meeting with diplomats, but declined to give details.

Chamisa said: "It was a routine briefing President Tsvangirai gave them on the party's position on the talks. It was more of an update to our distinguished members of the diplomatic community from our continent as well as the whole world."