South African President Jacob Zuma Wednesday began talks with Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, amid growing pressure for the country to move toward new elections.

“The principals are meeting this morning,” Patrick Chinamasa, the chief negotiator for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party told AFP.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a unity government in February last year under stiff international pressure, aiming to end an economic freefall and curb deadly political violence after disputed presidential elections in 2008.

They have deadlocked over a slate of key appointments, including the central bank governor and the attorney general, while Tsvangirai complains that his supporters remain the target of official persecution.

But pressure has been growing for the parties to shelve their differences and focus on drafting a new constitution, which is meant to pave the way toward fresh elections.

Under the power-sharing deal, Zimbabwe was meant to draft a new charter and put it to a referendum by November 2010, paving the way to new elections by February 2011.

Both sides have already begun positioning themselves for the polls, with 86-year-old Mugabe – in power since independence from Britain in 1980 – saying that he is prepared to run again.

Tsvangirai has called for international peacekeepers to supervise the polls to prevent a return of the bloodshed that marred the 2008 presidential race.

(Source)