Mbeki to head to Zimbabwe amid mounting anticipation of unity deal

South African President Thabo Mbeki will travel to Zimbabwe amid reports Friday that negotiations on a powersharing government in the country may be nearing a breakthrough, reported dpa.

Mbeki, the Southern African Development Community's (SADC's) appointed mediator in Zimbabwe, will travel to Harare Saturday, returning Sunday, South African foreign affairs department said in a statement.

The South African leader is expected to nudge controversial Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai towards agreement on a unity government that would end Zimbabwe's decade-long political crisis.

Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said he would be meeting with Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a smaller MDC faction that is also a party to the unity talks.

"He will meet them one by one first and then probably have a joint meeting with them together," Ratshitanga said.

The meeting comes amid mounting anticipation of a deal between Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the MDC that would end Zanu-PF's 28-year stranglehold on power.

The two parties have been holding talks since July 24 in South Africa on a unity government. The talks were suspended for six days last week over the issue of who should lead the new dispensation - Mugabe or Tsvangirai.

Zanu-PF has been rooting for Mugabe to remain president and for Tsvangirai to be made prime minister. The MDC and the West has been calling for Tsvangirai to have the leadership role, possibly as executive prime minister. According to that scenario, Mugabe would remain on as president but with limited powers.

Mbeki, who earned plaudits for getting both men to the negotiating table after years of apparently fruitless "quiet diplomacy" with Mugabe, is thought anxious to pull off a deal before a SADC summit starting in South Africa on August 14.

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