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UPDATE1-SAfrica's Mbeki says Zimbabwe talks going well

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling party and the country’s main opposition party are going “very well,” South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Thursday.

“I can confirm that the discussions are proceeding very well,” Mbeki, who was delegated by the Southern African Development Community to mediate the talks, told South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town. He did not provide details.

Mbeki, who has successfully mediated in a number of conflicts on the African continent, has been criticized for being too soft on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his increasingly authoritarian ZANU-PF government.

Mugabe, the 83-year-old ruler of the former British colony, has vowed to run for another presidential term in 2008, dismissing calls to step down from Western nations, human rights groups and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe’s main opposition party.

Zimbabwe, once one of southern Africa’s most prosperous nations, is mired in a deep economic crisis, marked by inflation over 3,700 percent, soaring poverty and unemployment and chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.

International criticism of Mugabe has sharpened since March when a group of MDC activists, including leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were arrested and beaten while trying to hold a prayer rally in the capital Harare.