Zimbabwe Parties Hold First Talks Since Election

Zimbabwe's two rival political parties entered their second day of talks on Friday following last month's "sham" presidential runoff election.

The ruling Zanu-PF Party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are meeting in South Africa but details of the talks, which opened Thursday, have not been released, according to Agence France-Presse.

Ruling party's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Labor Minister Nicholas Goche have flown to South Africa for the talks. Meanwhile, No. 2 opposition leader Tendai Biti and deputy treasurer-general, Elton Mangoma are representing the Movement for Democratic Change.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai confirmed in a statement that "a meeting" was taking place in Pretoria between its members and Zanu-PF. But he clarified that they were there "solely to present the conditions under which genuine negotiations can take place."

Conditions include an immediate end to violence, the release of more than 1,500 political prisoners, the swearing in of member of parliaments and an expanded mediation team to include an African Union permanent envoy.

The two parties for a long time have been bitter foes, but the relationship became worse after the June 27 runoff election. Tsvangirai dropped out of the race five days before the runoff vote because of what he claimed to be state-sponsored violence against his supporters.

MDC claims at least 80 of its supporters were killed before the runoff, and more than 10 of its members have been killed since.

Mugabe, who is seeking a sixth consecutive term as president, claimed after the runoff to have been re-elected by the people of Zimbabwe even though it was a one-man election. A hidden camera during runoff election even showed Zimbabweans were coerced to vote for Mugabe.

U.S. President Bush has denounced the June 27 election a "sham" and urged fellow Group of Eight members meeting in Japan this week to support a U.N. Security Council sanction against Zimbabwe. G-8 leaders in a statement this week united to reject the legitimacy of Mugabe's government and issued a threat of further sanction against his regime.

The U.S. draft of the U.N. sanction called for assets freeze and a travel ban on Mugabe and 13 members of his cronies as well as an arms embargo. It also demands the government "begin without delay a substantive dialogue between the parties with the aim of arriving at a peaceful solution that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed by the March 29 (first-round presidential) elections," according to AFP.

MDC's Tsvangirai received more votes than Mugabe in the March 29 election, but fell short of the majority votes needed.

Mugabe's regime on Wednesday responded to the G-8 leaders' threat of sanctions "international racism" and an attempt to impose a government against the will of the Zimbabwe people.

But Zimbabweans have shown through elections that they want a new government. Mugabe is highly unpopular because his country has suffered an economic meltdown under his leadership. The country has the worst inflation in the world at 100,000 percent and an unemployment rate of about 80 percent.