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South Africa's Zuma bids to end Zimbabwe crisis

HARARE (Reuters) - South African leader Jacob Zuma met Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday in an attempt to resolve a decade-long political crisis that helped drag Zimbabwe into economic ruin.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R) shakes hands with Zimbabwea's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai before discussions on the Global Political Agreement (GPA) at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in the capital Harare, March 17, 2010. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Mugabe and opposition leader Tsvangirai formed a unity government last year to end a stalemate over disputed elections, which has managed to stabilize the economy after 10 years of contraction.

But constant bickering within the fragile alliance over policy and the slow pace of reforms have held back progress, and have also stood in the way of fresh elections.

Zuma, appointed to mediate in the crisis by regional grouping SADC, met separately with Mugabe and Tsvangirai at a hotel in central Harare, and was to hold a joint meeting later to discuss problems between the rival parties -- Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change.

Asked how his meeting with Zuma had gone, Mugabe said briefly: “It went very well as usual.”

Justice Minister and Zanu-PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said talks would continue after Zuma’s visit, with negotiators set to meet again on March 26 and 29.

“The whole purpose of this meeting is to advise the facilitator of the progress that we have made so far. It will not be the end of the matter, we should meet as negotiators and conclude our negotiations which we’ll do on those dates,” he told reporters outside the hotel.

“We will conclude our discussions and spell out matters we have agreed on and those we disagree on.”

Tsvangirai’s MDC boycotted cabinet meetings late last year due to the dispute over the implementation of the deal.

The party is particularly unhappy about central bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, both Mugabe loyalists, remaining in their posts.

Western donors have held back aid essential aid to help rebuild the country, saying Mugabe must first put in place implement concrete human rights and democratic reforms.

Zimbabwe’s former colonial ruler Britain rebuffed a call by Zuma this month to end targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his allies.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Nelson Banya