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Zimbabwe's power-sharing deal takes tentative step forward

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  • Amendment paves way for power-sharing deal after violence disturbed election
  • President Robert Mugabe, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed deal in July
  • Amendment describes prime minister post intended for opposition leader Tsvangirai
  • Parliament must approve amendment before Mugabe can sign it into effect
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe published a draft constitutional amendment in the government gazette Saturday, paving the way for the power-sharing agreement reached after violence disrupted this year's presidential election.

President Robert Mugabe, left, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed the deal in July.

President Robert Mugabe, left, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed the deal in July.

Constitutional Amendment 19 details the posts and institutions that were created by the power-sharing deal, including the position of prime minister intended for Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change.

The publication of the draft is the first step in creating a law in Zimbabwe. For the law to pass, it must be appear before parliament in 30 days, according to the country's constitution. If it is approved, it will be sent to Mugabe for his signature.

The deal arose after Tsvangirai withdrew from a June 27 runoff days before the vote, saying Mugabe's supporters had waged a campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition supporters.

The two leaders signed the initial agreement, brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, in July but have failed to agree on how to form a cabinet.

The MDC, the main opposition party, noted that Mugabe's latest move does not legalize the amendment.

"Gazetting the bill -- which was done by [Mugabe's party] Zanu-PF -- does not automatically translate into passing it into law," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said. "That can only take place if outstanding issues have been addressed. Otherwise we will not support the bill."

The two parties agreed last month to the draft amendment during talks in South Africa, but Chamisa warned then that problems remained.

"We have differed with Zanu-PF for a long time while the citizens suffer, but fortunately we have agreed on something. I need to hasten to mention that we still have some outstanding issues, such as the cabinet, appointment of diplomats," he said in late November.

Zanu-PF lost its majority in the parliament in the March elections. As no party has the two-thirds majority to pass the law, its passage relies on MDC support.

If parliament does not approve the amendment, Mugabe may call for new elections, Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told state-run daily newspaper The Herald.

"I envisage that it will require two weeks for it to be debated and passed through both Houses. If no support is forthcoming, it means that Amendment Number 19 Bill will be dead matter," Chinamasa is quoted as saying The Herald.

"In the event that the collaboration that we envisage is not forthcoming, then that will necessitate fresh harmonized elections at some point in time," he said, according to The Herald.

Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March election, but not enough to avoid a runoff, according to the government's official count.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, chairman of the Southern African Development Community, welcomed the draft.

"The gazetting of Amendment 19 of the Zimbabwean Constitution is indeed a major step towards the formation of an inclusive government in Zimbabwe," he said in a written statement. "We urge the Zimbabwean political parties to establish an inclusive government."

Meanwhile, the country is battling a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 800 people since August, according to the World Health Organization. More than 16,000 people have been infected, WHO said.

This week, Mugabe declared that "there is no cholera in the country." His spokesman later said Mugabe was sarcastically ridiculing what he believes are Western designs to invade the country.

Another Zimbabwean official, Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said Friday that the disease was a "calculated, racist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power, which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so that they can invade the country."

Britain ruled the country as a colony until 1965.

Ndlovu's claims triggered quick and pointed reaction from Britain and the United States.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Rob McInturff called Ndlovu's accusations "patently ridiculous."

All About Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic FrontZimbabweRobert MugabeMorgan TsvangiraiSouth Africa

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