Regional leaders decided at a summit on Tuesday that Zimbabwe should form a unity government but the opposition said it was disappointed with the outcome of the meeting.
The 15-nation SADC grouping said after the meeting in South Africa -- its fifth attempt to secure a deal on forming a unity government -- it had agreed that opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be sworn in as prime minister by February 11.
All parties agreed control of Zimbabwe's hotly disputed Home Affairs Ministry, which has been a major obstacle to a final agreement, should be divided between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the MDC for six months, said South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.
"All the parties expressed confidence in the process and committed to implementing the agreement," Motlanthe, current SADC chair, told a news conference.
But the MDC quickly issued a statement after the SADC communique was read out making clear its disappointment, raising the possibility that deadlock would drag on as Zimbabweans face growing economic hardship.
The MDC said "quite clearly the conclusions reached as reflected in the communique fall far short of our expectations." The MDC said its national council would meet this weekend to define its position on the summit.
"The ministers and deputy ministers shall be sworn in on 13 February 2009, which will conclude the process of the formation of the inclusive government," said the SADC communique. Allocation of ministries would be reviewed six months after the inauguration of the government, it added.