crisis needs 'a soft landing'

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should be allowed an "honourable exit" from power, and a transitional government should last no more than two years, his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, has told British television.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should be allowed an "honourable exit" from power, and a transitional government should last no more than two years, his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, has told British television.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader expressed the hope that power-sharing talks between his party and Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF will lead to political reconciliation.

But in an interview with Channel 4 News on Wednesday he declined to comment on their respective roles in any interim government in Harare.

"Well, the role of Robert Mugabe and the role of Morgan Tsvangirai in the envisaged government will have to be discussed by the negotiating parties," Tsvangirai said in the interview from Johannesburg.

"I am not in any position of defining what his [Mugabe's] role would be. What I would hope is that it would allow him a process of an honourable exit," he said, according to a transcript provided by the broadcaster.

Tsvangirai, who pulled out of last month's presidential run-off with Mugabe, citing violence and intimidation by pro-government supporters, said a transitional government should allow the crisis "to soft-land".

It should also address issues around law and order, the constitution and humanitarian intervention as well as "issues of economic recovery in the interim, no more than two years in our perspective".

There should also be a distinction between the head of state and the executive, he said.

Tsvangirai said he had already had face-to-face talks with Mugabe lasting 90 minutes, and discussed with him the future direction of Zimbabwe, which is hit by crippling hyper-inflation, unemployment and food shortages.

Though he said Mugabe was "in denial" about the violence in Zimbabwe, he said he was "sure that there was a common understanding that there is a need to soft-land the crisis through a transitional process".

Power-sharing talks are due to resume on Sunday. - Sapa-AFP

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