Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 16:13 UK

Mugabe's party 'wants mediation'

L-R: Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Thabo Mbeki hold hands
Mr Mbeki (right) brokered the deal just before resigning

The party of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe has agreed to further mediation from South Africa over a deadlocked power-sharing deal, a minister says.

"The three leaders agreed to call in the facilitator to assist in resolving the outstanding issues," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said.

South Africa's former leader Thabo Mbeki brokered an agreement last month.

But there has been a stalemate over the cabinet, and the ruling party had said outside mediation was unnecessary.

Mr Mbeki stepped down last month, not long after negotiating a deal between Mr Mugabe and his long-time rival, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

There is now consensus that there is indeed a deadlock
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa

The leader of a smaller opposition party, Arthur Mutambara, was also party to the agreement.

According to Mr Chinamasa, the leaders met on Friday morning and agreed to get outside help.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa confirmed the meeting.

"There is now consensus that there is indeed a deadlock, so the intervention of the mediator becomes both imperative and inevitable," he told Reuters news agency.

The MDC has alleged that the ruling Zanu-PF party is demanding all the key ministries in the new unity government.

Food aid

So far the deal has failed to ease the country's crippling economic crisis.

Shoppers at a supermarket selling products in US dollars
Some outlets have been licensed to sell goods in US dollars

On Thursday, it was announced that Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate had soared to 231,000,000%.

Meanwhile, the UN says it needs $140m for food aid over the next six months.

The UN World Food Programme estimates that two million people are in need of food aid, and that the figure will rise to 5.1 million - or 45% of the population - by early 2009.

In a bid to combat the shortages of many basic goods, the government has allowed some shops to sell in foreign currency.

Critics of Mr Mugabe say he triggered the economic crisis when he began seizing white-owned farms for land redistribution ahead of parliamentary elections in 2000.

But Mr Mugabe blames Western sanctions which target him and his chief supporters for wrecking Zimbabwe's economy.

The crisis worsened after disputed elections earlier this year.

Mr Tsvangirai gained more votes than Mr Mugabe in March's polls, but not enough for outright victory.

He pulled out of a run-off in June, accusing Zanu-PF militia and the army of organising attacks on its supporters which left some 200 people dead.

Under the South African-brokered deal Mr Mugabe remains president while Mr Tsvangirai becomes prime minister.

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