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Power-Sharing Deal Is Signed In Zimbabwe

"The problem that we have now is a problem that has been created by a former colonial power wanting to continue to interfere in our domestic affairs," Mugabe said after the signing ceremony. "They imposed sanctions. We had not attacked Britain; we had not done anything to Britain. We had not attacked America. Why, why, why the hand of the Americans here?"

Pressure from the African Union also forced Mugabe's hand, analysts said.

"The manner in which the election was conducted could not pass the test of any democratic government," said Trevor Ncube, the publisher of two independent Zimbabwean newspapers, the Independent and the Standard. "He's simply succumbed to that logic."

Opposition members hailed the deal. Many said that although Mugabe's partial release of power was an imperfect bargain, it was a shift they had rarely believed would occur.

"We have scars, broken bones and bashed heads from this man . . . but for today we can celebrate," said Thomas Mhandara, 30, an unemployed shopkeeper and MDC activist. "That we dragged him to the negotiating table and took away half of his powers in the process is something we are happy about. You are talking about a dictator here. Dictators don't just leave power."

It was still unclear how ministries will be distributed -- particularly the security forces, who are seen as loyal to Mugabe and whose acceptance of the deal could determine its success. Sources close to the negotiations have said Mugabe's party would retain control of the army, and the MDC would oversee the police.

Another question was whether government agents who have used violence against Mugabe's opponents would be prosecuted. Outside the signing ceremony, MDC supporters sang victory anthems, dedicating some to the 131 opposition backers reportedly killed after the election. Human Rights Watch released a statement calling for Zimbabwe to "hold to account those responsible for past abuses."

"We have hundreds of people who have been killed by ZANU-PF, yet the MDC is not mentioning anything about it," said Nelia Mafukidze, 30, who sells fruit in one of Harare's poorest suburbs. "Are those bad things going to go just like that?"

Yet the biggest concern for many Zimbabweans on Monday was whether the parties in the new government would put aside their animosities and address the nation's economic problems.

"We don't care what the deal says," said Marry Muzofa, 56, who was waiting in a long line to buy bread in downtown Harare and said she is a ZANU-PF supporter. "We just want to start getting food and send our children to school. If signing it can provide that, they must just go ahead."

Political analysts and economists warned that recovery would take time even if foreign aid and investment start flowing. Crops must be planted, factories must be opened and, to curb inflation, Zimbabwe's central Reserve Bank must stop printing money, they said.

"What the country requires at the moment are major structural changes on the economic front," said Eldred Masunungure, a University of Zimbabwe political science professor. "There is likely to be a crisis of expectations."

A Zimbabwean reporter in Harare contributed to this report.


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