Regional summit disappoints Zimbabwe opposition

Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:32pm GMT

By Stella Mapenzauswa and MacDonald Dzirutwe

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Regional leaders decided at a summit on Tuesday that Zimbabwe should form a unity government next month but the opposition said it was disappointed with the outcome, raising doubts over chances for ending the crisis.

Mugabe's government, which has made clear it would set up a government without the opposition if need be, said talks were concluded and a new cabinet could now be formed.

The 15-nation SADC grouping said after the meeting in South Africa -- its fifth attempt to secure a deal on forming a unity government -- it had agreed that opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be sworn in as prime minister by February 11.

"We hope this will open up a new chapter in our political relations in the country and in structures of government," said Mugabe after returning home from the summit.

But there was no end to the uncertainty for Zimbabweans struggling to survive in a country with the world's highest inflation rate and shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.

If Mugabe forms a government without the MDC, as he has threatened to, the opposition's majority in parliament could prevent him from passing a budget and key legislation, creating political paralysis.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said after the summit that all sides agreed that control of the Home Affairs Ministry, a major obstacle, should be divided between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and Tsvangirai's MDC for six months.

But the MDC quickly issued a statement after the SADC (Southern African Development Community) communique, making clear its disappointment and raising the possibility that deadlock would drag on.   Continued...

<p>Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai leaves a hotel in Harare after talks with President Robert Mugabe and regional leaders, January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo</p>
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