The Patriotic Front guerrillas presented a relatively moderate plan at the nine-day old Rhodesian settlement talks for moving the war-torn country to independence.
The plan calls for a six-month transitional period during which the country uould be administered by an eight-member council. Half of that body would be representatives of the Patriotic Front and half combination of the present Zimbabwe-Rhodesian government and Britain, the legal colonial power. The plan also provides for a United Nations peacekeeping force to supervise elections.
Zimbabwe Rhodesian Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa promptly registered strong reservations about the plan and British sources said it was unacceptable, but they added that as an opening position for negotiating it was an advance over previous Front proposal that called for a complete turnover of power.
Meanwhile, the Muzorewa delegation continued to flounder. Yesterday it remained silent because of divisions in its delegation while the Front took over talks with the British on a new constitution.
Today both sides were expected to have separated talks with British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, chairman of the conference, on the constitution. Carrington ended up, however, having talks only with the Front.
Zimbabwe-Rhodesian officials were emphatic that a meeting had been planned for this morning uhen Muzorewa led his delegation to the 19th century Lancaster House. British officials said no such meeting had been planned and the Carrington had other appointments. They eventually put together a team of senior officials to talks with the delegation.
The Salisbury officials, according to various explanations, were either stood up because of their own or a British mistake or they were snubbed. The latter explanation was favored by several Zimbabwe-Rhodesian officials.
A British source close to the conference acknowledge that the effect of Lord Carrington seeing the Front and not the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian delegation was to put pressure on Salisbury to present a united stand on the contentious issue of white rights.
Former prime minister Ian Smith, who is leader of the minority white population in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, has criticized Muzorewa's apparent willingness to give up the present white blocking power in the constitution and has resisted the British on the subject also.
The source agreed that Muzorewa's failure to see Carrington when the Front did uas likely to make the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian delegation "squirm."
Smith said at a cocktail party tonight that he was not dividing the delegation and that the issue was still open to negotiation. Other whites, however, acknowledged the split and some were critical of Smith.
The key element in the Patriotic Front's transitional plan is the governing council, with the Front maintaining that the seats should be evenly divided since the Muzorewa delegation was merely a representative of British interests, a stand neither Britain nor Salisbury would accept.
The division of the eight seats made it likely that there would be deadlocks on many issues since the British chairman would not have the power to break ties.
The council would appoint cabinet ministers and committees to begin reorganizing the military and the police force, two key areas of contention between the warring Rhodesian sides.