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Southern African leaders press Zimbabwe on reforms

By AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Southern African leaders have urged Zimbabwean political rivals to set specific deadlines for the completion of political reforms paving the way for elections.

In a statement after an extraordinary summit late Friday, SADC heads of state urged the Zimbabwean political rivals "to develop an implementation mechanism and to set out time frames for the full implementation of the roadmap to elections."

Regional chief mediator on Zimbabwe, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, said in statement on Saturday that the meeting had noted "progress on some aspects" of the agreed reforms.

But "urged the parties to implement all the outstanding issues so that a conducive environment is created for elections to take place."

Election dates are yet to be fixed, but Zimbabwe's state-controlled daily The Herald on Saturday reported that SADC wants elections held within a year.

"The SADC troika on defence, politics and security cooperation yesterday said elections in Zimbabwe should be held within the next 12 months," said the paper, without elaborating.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said he could not immediately comment on the report until he was briefed by the party's delegation to the summit.

Tsvangirai, 60, and Mugabe, 88, formed a coalition government in February 2009 after a disputed presidential poll run-off in June 2008.

The two leaders have been haggling over when new elections can be held. Mugabe wants to exit the power-sharing deal as soon as possible, while Tsvangirai insists that key reforms be implemented first.

Mugabe has repeatedly hinted he wants the vote to take place this year.

"We should go and finish the business to see when we can have elections within the period left for us. We want elections to be held this year," Mugabe was quoted by The Herald as telling reporters in Luanda.

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