Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Joshua Nkomo held a rare meeting today, but apparently failed to make any progress toward ending Zimbabwe's political crisis.
The session, requested by Nkomo, was the first between the two former guerrilla partners since Mugabe fired Nkomo from the Cabinet in February, accusing him of planning a coup. Relations have been frigid since then, and dissidents claiming loyalty to Nkomo have mounted a campaign of violence in his Matabeleland stronghold in southwestern Zimbabwe.
The meeting took place as about 1,500 troops continued their search for about a dozen dissidents and the six Western tourists they took hostage 10 days ago in Matabeleland.
Mugabe has blamed Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) for the kidnaping and has threatened serious consequences if the American, British and Australian hostages are not released unharmed. The government-controlled Herald newspaper today called for Nkomo's arrest.
Emerging from the two-hour meeting, Nkomo called the situation in the country "very dangerous" and added, "We agreed to follow a certain course of action which will be made known as we go along."
The implication of that remark was that the government would back away from a confrontation and would cooperate with ZAPU in trying to curb the dissident activity that has been mounting since Nkomo was fired. Nkomo has been seeking joint action for weeks in an effort to bolster the role of his party.
However, a government spokesman denied that the two men had reached any agreement for joint action. Instead, he said, Mugabe told Nkomo that Nkomo and his party should take much stronger action to end the violence. No details were given.
During the past three months more than 30 persons have been killed by dissidents, mainly in Matabeleland in southwestern Zimbabwe. Both whites and blacks have been victims.
The recent involvement of foreigners is bound to have an adverse effect on the country's tourist industry.
The bodies of three foreigners were found over the weekend in eastern Zimbabwe near the Mozambican border.
Diplomatic sources said two of the victims were identified by a family member as a British brother and sister who had been missing since mid-July. The third body is believed to be that of a friend who was traveling with them, but it was too decomposed to establish positive identification.
Elsewhere, the famed Victoria Falls Hotel, a favorite spot for tourists, was held up last week and an official at the hotel was killed.