Zimbabwe's president and opposition factions wrangled over power-sharing Monday, but made no progress despite the presence of southern African leaders who pressed for a resolution to the months-long stalemate.
After more than 12 hours of talk produced no agreement, the deadlock was referred to a special summit of the Southern African Development Community to be held next week, Tomaz Salamao, executive secretary of the regional bloc, told reporters.
Salamao said the meeting would be attended by leaders of the group's nations next Monday either in South Africa or Botswana.
The region had hoped Monday's talks would find a solution to the political wrangling and allow Zimbabwe's leaders to focus on ending an economic crisis that has half the country's people in need of food aid.
South Africa's current president, Kgalema Motlanthe, and former leader, Thabo Mbeki, Mozambique President Armando Guebuza and other regional leaders met all day with Mugabe, main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, head of a smaller opposition faction.
Disagreements over Cabinet posts
An agreement calling for power-sharing was signed in September but disagreements over allotting Cabinet posts has blocked its implementation.
The latest round of talks broke up around midnight and a disappointed Tsvangirai was one of the first to leave the Rainbow Towers hotel in downtown Harare.
"We came to this meeting so that we would be able to resolve the outstanding issues and conclude the power-sharing agreement. Unfortunately, there has been no progress made," he said.
Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of being "a stumbling block" and said the president's party had "disappointed" Zimbabweans who were hoping for an end to the "roller-coaster" of problems they face.
"This has been one of the darkest days of our lives," he said.
Mugabe, who was among the last leaders to leave the hotel, told reporters that the meeting had not "gone well" and that the parties had "failed to agree" on various proposals.
"So it means we have to go back and start discussions again. So discussions will continue ... to see where the differences are and how we can sort them out," he said.
Mbeki, who has acted as a mediator for months, left the meeting without commenting.
Deadlock has paralyzed government
The deadlock has paralyzed Zimbabwe's government amid a spiraling economic crisis with hyperinflation that doubles prices every day. The health, water and education systems have collapsed, and most major goods are in short supply.
More than 5 million Zimbabweans are likely to need food aid this year and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,300 people and infected over 42,000.
The Sept. 15 power-sharing deal calls for the 84-year-old Mugabe to remain president, Tsvangirai to become prime minister and the main parties to equitably share Cabinet posts.
Mugabe, who has ruled since independence in 1980, has tried to keep all important posts for his party, however, and Tsvangirai has said he will not be "bulldozed" into joining a lopsided government.
Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round of the presidential election last March but pulled out of the runoff with Mugabe because of violence against his supporters.