Page last updated at 20:18 GMT, Sunday, 9 November 2008

Tsvangirai 'warns of starvation'

Morgan Tsvangirai at the summit in Johannesburg on 9 November 2008
The MDC leader urged the summit to help break Zimbabwe's deadlock

Zimbabwe's opposition has reportedly warned that at least a million Zimbabweans could starve to death in a year if political deadlock continues.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is said to have issued the stark warning to southern African leaders at an emergency meeting in Johannesburg.

Eight weeks after a power-sharing deal, the MDC and President Mugabe have still not reached agreement on a new cabinet.

The summit is also discussing the crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The BBC's Peter Biles, reporting from the meeting, says there is little reason to be optimistic on Zimbabwe at the moment, with only five heads of state attending out of the 15 countries invited. The others were represented by lower ranking officials.

'Political maturity'

South Africa's new President, Kgalema Motlanthe, who is chairing the Southern African Development Community meeting, urged both sides in the former Rhodesia to implement the deal agreed after disputed polls.

He said: "The political leadership in Zimbabwe owe it to the people of Zimbabwe in the region to show political maturity by putting the interest of Zimbabwe first."

South Africa President Kgalema Motlanthe
President Motlanthe says Zimbabwe can ill afford its disputes

Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and President Robert Mugabe have been unable to agree on how to share cabinet posts.

A key sticking point has been control of the home affairs ministry, which is responsible for the police.

Zimbabwe is facing severe food shortages and rampant inflation but neither side appears willing to compromise.

The summit follows a smaller meeting at the end of October, which concluded without success.

'Make or break'

A top Zimbabwean government official told AFP that Sunday's meetings would be "make or break".

He said that if Mr Tsvangirai and his party "continue to make outrageous demands, shifting goalposts", the ruling Zanu-PF party would go its own way, adding: "We don't care what the world will say."

A woman walks past Congolese army soldiers on the frontline near Goma on 9 November 2008
The Johannesburg summit called for fighting to stop in DR Congo

Meanwhile an opposition spokesman said that unless there was a "major shift" in Zanu-PF's position, the MDC would not accept the deal.

The opposition party's secretary-general, Tendai Biti, said: "We need to close this chapter so that Zimbabwe can reconstruct, can restart and can rehabilitate itself and can move forward."

Last week, the MDC claimed that Mr Mugabe's party had unleashed "a new orgy of brutality and assaults across the whole country".

Amid reports of fresh clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, leaders at Sunday's Johannesburg summit urged rebel and government forces to uphold a fragile ceasefire.

South Africa's president said: "We firmly believe there is no military solution to the problem."

The UN reported renewed fighting on Sunday around Ngungu, just west of the regional capital, Goma. More than a quarter of a million people have been displaced in the eastern DR Congo since fighting flared up in August.

A medical aid group told the BBC News website it was struggling to contain a cholera outbreak in a crowded refugee camp near Goma.

Medecins Sans Frontieres said it had treated 45 suspected cholera cases in Kibati since Friday and warned the potential for an epidemic was "a big concern".

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Arab News Editorial: No end to woes of Zimbabwe - 14 hrs ago Zimbabwe: SADC Allows Mugabe to Dictate Terms at Johannesburg Summit [analysis] - 15 hrs ago
ABC Online Mugabe to form new Zimbabwe govt 'quickly' - 16 hrs ago
Telegraph Robert Mugabe to form government 'as soon as possible' - 20 hrs ago
Daily Telegraph Australia Zimbabwe 'to form new government' - 20 hrs ago

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