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Zimbabwe power-share talks break down

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Talks collapse between President Robert Mugabe, opposition
  • "Darkest day of our lives," says MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
  • Mugabe said Monday's meeting is final one; will form government without MDC
  • Once-prosperous nation facing its worst economic and humanitarian crisis
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Talks among regional African leaders failed Monday to resolve a long-standing power-sharing dispute between embattled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

South African former president Thabo Mbeki is shown at talks Monday in Harare.

South African former president Thabo Mbeki is shown at talks Monday in Harare.

After the meeting a visibly angry Mugabe said talks faltered after Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), presented proposals which differed from recommendations by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).

"The talks did not go very well. ... MDC have a proposal which is in conflict with the SADC and we opposed it and then the talks broke down," Mugabe said. "We will continue with discussions here at home. We shall continue to exchange ideas and see where the differences are with the SADC proposal."

The meeting had drawn the leaders of Mozambique and South Africa, as well as former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

In light of the continued stalemate, SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salamao told journalists that South African leader Kgalema Motlanthe, who is leading the SADC, had called for a summit on January 26. The meeting will be held in Botswana or South Africa.

Tsvangirai blamed Mugabe for the failure of the talks.

"For us as the MDC this is probably the darkest day of our lives," Tsvangirai told reporters as he left the hotel where the 12-hour-long meeting took place. "I am sure the whole nation is waiting anxiously for the resolution of this crisis. We are committed to this deal but subject to (ruling party) ZANU-PF conceding on these issues."

Mugabe told the state media that Monday's meeting would be the final one, and that he would form a government without the opposition if no agreement was reached.

The MDC has not been able to settle with Mugabe since signing a power sharing deal in September. Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of keeping the most powerful portfolios in the government for his party. The ministries under contention include home affairs, finance, foreign affairs, local government, information and defense.

Both Tsvangirai and Mugabe, along with Arthur Mutambara of a small faction of the MDC, are expected to attend next week's summit, Salamao said.

The power-sharing deal is expected to keep Zimbabwe's melting economy from a total collapse. Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic and humanitarian crisis, with the highest inflation in the world officially at 231 million percent as of July 2008.

Analysts say the inflation is thriving because of an acute shortage of all essentials ranging from fuel, electricity, cash and food. The United Nations estimates that about 5 million people in Zimbabwe need urgent food aid.

A cholera epidemic has claimed more than 2,200 lives since its outbreak in August. The ravaging cholera has been made worse by a four-months-long industrial action by doctors and nurses demanding higher pay.

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