HARARE - The South African government has called on former president Thabo Mbeki to continue as mediator in Zimbabwe's political crisis.
But chief Zanu-PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said Mbeki's involvement was not needed now to break an impasse threatening to derail a power-sharing deal and the recovery of Zimbabwe's shattered economy.
Mbeki, the troubleshooter in a series of African crises during nine years as president, brokered the deal between President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to establish a unity government.
His role was thrown into doubt after he was recalled as president. Pressure has grown to get Mbeki involved again as Zanu-PF and the MDC argue over the allocation of cabinet posts.
President Kgalema Motlanthe said: "Mbeki's facilitation efforts in Zimbabwe have proven his dispassionate vision for a lasting political solution to the challenges facing Zimbabwe.
"Accordingly, our government has full confidence in Mbeki's ability to build on the historic successes already made in the power-sharing negotiations under his mediation."
The MDC initially criticised Mbeki as being too soft on Mugabe but now supports continuing his 18-month mediation under a mandate from the 15-nation SADC.
Zanu-PF, which lost control of parliament in a March election and entered the talks reluctantly, said it did not see any immediate need for mediation over the dispute on cabinet posts.
Chinamasa told the state-run Chronicle newspaper: "I don't think that the issue of allocation of ministries is a matter that can be referred to the facilitator (Mbeki).
"We cannot, at the slightest difference in opinion, call outsiders to mediate," Chinamasa said.
"If there is thinking on this kind of approach it has to stop in the interest of harmonisation of relations."
Mugabe expressed confidence that the cabinet would be named this week, but Tsvangirai and his officials say a deal is not imminent. It accuses Zanu-PF of trying to assign the opposition a junior role in government.
Without a breakthrough, Zimbabwe's economy could worsen still further. - Reuters (Additional reporting by Paul Simao, editing by Matthew Tostevin)