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17.01.2009 International

Tsvangirai goes back to Zimbabwe

By BBC
Tsvangirai goes back to Zimbabwe
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Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has returned to Zimbabwe after an absence of more than two months.

The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is to have fresh talks with President Robert Mugabe on a stalled power-sharing deal.

The rivals will discuss a four-month-old unity government agreement, which has never been implemented.

Mr Tsvangirai says he was issued a new passport only on Christmas Day - after a six-month wait.

He left Zimbabwe on 10 November for a summit in Johannesburg, where regional leaders tried and failed to push the rivals into a compromise on forming a unity government.

'Glad to be back'
The MDC leader has spent much of the last two months in Botswana but he flew home via South Africa on Saturday.

Mr Tsvangirai, who remains prime minister-designate, and Mr Mugabe are due to meet on Monday for talks mediated by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, his predecessor Thabo Mbeki and Mozambican leader Armando Emilio Guebuza.

The MDC leader is expected to meet members of the MDC national executive this weekend.

"I'm glad to be back home," Mr Tsvangirai said after arriving in Zimbabwe's capital Harare from Johannesburg. "I hope the meeting will find a lasting solution to the crisis."

He added: "The MDC will not be bulldozed into an agreement which does not meet the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe."

Under September's power-sharing agreement, Mr Tsvangirai is to become prime minister while Mr Mugabe remains as president.

Cholera worsens
But the deal faltered after the MDC accused Zanu-PF of keeping the most powerful ministries - including the one that controls the police - to itself.

Mr Tsvangirai says he remains committed to the deal, but lacks "a willing partner" in Mr Mugabe.

The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says the MDC must now decide whether to join an inclusive government, or walk away in the knowledge that 84-year-old Mr Mugabe will probably then form a government unilaterally.

The MDC leader's return came as the death toll from Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic rose to 2,225.

The UN children's agency, Unicef, said more than 42,000 others were infected and 1,550 new cases were being reported every day.

The outbreak has been worsened by the collapse of the water, health and sanitation systems.

On Friday it was announced that Zimbabwe was introducing a Z$100 trillion note, currently worth about US$30 (£20).

Its annual inflation was last estimated at 231m% - the world's highest - and there is more than 80% unemployment.

The country has been mired in political stalemate since elections last March, when Mr Tsvangirai won a first-round presidential vote and the MDC seized a parliamentary majority for the first time.

Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of a June run-off, blaming the government for a wave of political violence against his supporters, allowing Mr Mugabe to claim a lopsided victory condemned by western powers.

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