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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mugabe to Hold Power-Sharing Talks

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday signed a deal laying down the framework for formal talks on forming a power sharing government to end a deep political crisis.

It was the first meeting between the two rivals, who are said to detest each other, in 10 years. They sat at a conference table separated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who mediated the deal.

The preliminary agreement was signed in Harare's Rainbow Towers Hotel after weeks of deadlock since Mugabe was re-elected on June 27 in a widely condemned poll boycotted by Tsvangirai because of violence against his supporters.

Mbeki said the agreement committed both sides to an intense process to try to complete substantive negotiations as quickly as possible. "All parties recognize the urgency," he said.

Officials from both sides said the framework agreement sets a two-week deadline for the government and two factions of the opposition MDC to discuss key issues including a unity government and how to hold new elections.

A government of national unity has been pushed as a solution to the crisis by the African Union and the regional body Southern African Development Community, both deeply concerned by Zimbabwe's political violence and an economic crisis that has flooded neighboring states with millions of refugees.

Tsvangirai's MDC, or Movement for Democratic Change, and Mugabe's ZANU-PF are also committed under the agreement to ease political tension within the two-week deadline, officials said.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been under heavy world and African pressure to enter negotiations, which are expected to be extremely tough.