Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 18:12 UK

Zimbabwe parties call for peace

Robert Mugabe (l) and Morgan Tsvangirai (r)
Mr Mugabe (r) and Mr Tsvangirai have been locked in a bitter dispute

Zimbabwe's ruling and opposition parties have issued a joint call for an end to post-election violence.

A statement called on supporters and members "to stop and desist the perpetration of violence in any form", Reuters news agency reports.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have been holding crisis talks in South Africa.

The parties have been trying to negotiate a power-sharing deal.

Mr Mugabe won a run-off presidential election in June after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out because of a campaign of violence against his supporters.

Last month, the two rivals agreed to hold crisis talks after meeting for the first time in a decade.

Draft agreement

A two-week deadline to complete the talks passed on Monday without any news of a deal.

The appeal came as the Star newspaper in South Africa said a draft agreement was being circulated under which Mr Tsvangirai would run Zimbabwe as prime minister and Mr Mugabe would serve as a ceremonial president.

It really could develop into a humanitarian catastrophe unless action is taken as quickly as possible

Matthew Cochrane

The South African talks have been held at a secret location and are subject to a media blackout.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned of a growing food crisis in Zimbabwe.

It said two million people were short of food because of poor harvests and economic collapse, and warned that the figure could rise to five million by early next year.

A spokesman for the federation, Matthew Cochrane, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that such a figure would represent about 45% of Zimbabwe's population.

"It is a very worrying situation and it really could develop into a humanitarian catastrophe unless action is taken as quickly as possible and as effectively as possible," he said.

The federation is appealing for $26m (13m) to help deal with the crisis.

Zimbabwe's economy has been crippled by hyperinflation that has left people struggling to buy basic goods and food.

Mr Tsvangirai won the first round of Zimbabwe's presidential poll in March, but official results gave him less than the 50% needed for an outright victory.

Subsequently, the opposition said that more than 120 of its supporters had been killed, some 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced to flee their homes after being attacked by Zanu-PF militias and security agents.

The government blames the MDC for the violence.

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