Resolve political impasse – U.N Secretary General

"It is urgent to resolve the ongoing political impasse so that recovery can begin," he said in a statement as he lamented the human cost of deadlocked talks between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his opposition.

"The secretary general remains distressed about the growing human cost of the crisis in Zimbabwe, in particular given the signs that the humanitarian situation in the country may worsen in the course of 2008 and 2009," the UN statement added.

It was issued as African leaders failed after 13 hours of talks to break the impasse on forming a unity government in Zimbabwe and called for a broader regional summit to tackle the crisis.

Key regional leaders had hoped to coax Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai into resolving their differences over who will control powerful ministries under a unity accord.

But a communiqué issued after the Harare summit said that the two sides still disagreed on which party should control the home affairs ministry, which oversees the police.

The communiqué urged all 15 leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to hold a "summit to further review the current political situation in Zimbabwe as a matter of urgency".

Ban however welcomed Monday’s SADC summit, which he noted "provides a critical opportunity for the leaders to finalize in good faith the formation of the new government based on an equitable division of power".

He restated the United Nations’ "willingness to support Zimbabwe throughout this delicate transition process and to work with regional leaders and the international community to provide immediate relief to the suffering of its people".

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a first-round presidential vote in March, when his Movement for Democratic Change also forced the president’s Zanu-PF into the minority in parliament for the first time since it took power on independence in 1980.

But he failed to win enough votes for an outright victory and then pulled out of the run-off in June, accusing the regime of co-ordinating a brutal campaign of violence that had left more than 100 of his supporters dead. – SAPA