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HARARE - A signature, some handshakes and four days of talks have raised hopes for an end to Zimbabwe's political crisis - but it is uncertain whether President Robert Mugabe's regime will cede power in the end.
Zimbabwe's archrivals - Mugabe and opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai - last Monday committed themselves to settlement through dialogue.
"I am optimistic something will come out of these talks," said Rayman Phiri, a Pentecostal Church minister in Harare.
Joseph Kurebga, head of the political science department at the University of Zimbabwe, said: "Overall the mood is optimistic. But the difficulty of talks on a new political order could emerge as they approach a decisive stage ."
Chris Maroleng of the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria said: "As far back as the 2002-2003 talks between Zanu-PF and the MDC were going on. The most fruitful took place last year, which led to about 18 constitutional amendments,"
"But what derailed them was a lack of political will to agree on power-sharing."
Advocates of quiet diplomacy are celebrating but outspoken critics of Mugabe have tightened the screws, with the European Union and US last week broadening sanctions.
The most widely touted scenario has Mugabe becoming a titular head of state, with Tsvangirai as prime minister with executive powers.
But given the stance of powerful security chiefs, who have vowed never to salute Tsvangirai, it remains doubtful whether such an arrangement is feasible. -Sapa-AFP