Page last updated at 21:09 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 22:09 UK

'End in sight' for Zimbabwe talks

Riot police in Harare, Zimbabwe, 14 October 2008
Police patrolled in the capital, Harare, as parliament met on Tuesday

The chief negotiator for Zimbabwe's main opposition party has said he is hopeful a power-sharing agreement can reached with President Robert Mugabe.

MDC General Secretary Tendai Biti was speaking at the end of a second day of talks in Harare aimed at rescuing a deadlocked power-sharing deal.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is mediating the discussions.

The country's leaders have yet to reach agreement over how key cabinet posts should be divided between the parties.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC - the Movement for Democratic Change - had threatened to pull out of the negotiations after Mr Mugabe gave key ministries to officials from his own party.

Mr Tsvangirai described the proceedings on Wednesday as "quite circuitous" and said there were still matters to be resolved.

As he left the talks, Mr Biti told reporters he believed a deal was possible and could come on Thursday "if you pray hard".

"History is being made and mountains are being moved," he said.

Mr Mugabe also said he believed progress had been made and that discussions would finish on Thursday.

'No conclusion'

The talks began on Tuesday as Zimbabwe's parliament held its first working session under opposition control since disputed elections earlier this year.

MPs heckled each other at the opening.

We have covered some ground
President Robert Mugabe

Mr Mugabe had earlier allocated the main ministries, including defence, home, foreign affairs, and justice, to his Zanu-PF party.

Mr Tsvangirai wants all cabinet positions to be revisited in discussions with Mr Mbeki.

But Zanu-PF says only one ministry - finance - is up for discussion.

According to the original deal - which allocates 15 ministries to Zanu-PF, 13 to the MDC and three to a smaller MDC faction - only Zanu-PF has a ministerial seat vacant.

Mr Mbeki is in Zimbabwe as a private citizen, trying to save the deal that he brokered shortly before resigning as South African president at the end of September.

While the power-sharing crisis continues, life for normal Zimbabweans remains a constant struggle, the BBC's Jonah Fisher reports from neighbouring South Africa.

Two million people are currently in need of food aid, with that figure set to increase to almost half the population over the next three months, our correspondent says.


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