Maputo - Mozambique's government has agreed to hold talks with former Renamo rebels led by Afonso Dhlakama, who returned to the bush last month threatening to destabilise the country unless his demands for negotiations were met.
"In an extraordinary cabinet meeting held on Thursday, cabinet decided to meet with four members of Renamo in Maputo," state-run Radio Mozambique announced on Friday.
The government negotiating team is to be led by the Minister of Agriculture, Jose Pacheco and includes several other deputy ministers. Renamo's secretary general, Manuel Bissopo, will lead the party's four-member team to the Maputo talks.
The government's negotiation offer comes 20 years after the ruling Frelimo party signed a peace accord with Renamo in Rome, ending a brutal civil war that resulted in the deaths of more than a million Mozambicans.
Calling the offer of talks, "a good start," Renamo's spokesperson Fernando Mazanga said his party intended to ask for the setting up of a "transitional government".
"Ideally we want a transitional government in order to create conditions for free and fair elections, that would be clean."
Renamo has frequently complained of electoral fraud, since the first multi-party elections were held in 1994.
Mazanga said successful talks would result in Dhlakama leaving his militarised base in the Gorongosa mountains, from where he has threatened to reignite the civil war.
"What brought Dhlakama there are questions we have been raising for 20 years haven't been resolved. If they are there is no reason for him to stay there," said Mazanga.
Renamo accepts that the request for a transitional government, twenty years after agreeing to lay down arms and fight Frelimo through the ballot box, is unusual.
"This has never happened in the world because normally when you break a peace accord, people go back to war. We never did that. We are an example to the rest of Africa. Now we want a transitional government."
Renamo insists it is not asking for a complete renegotiation of the 1992 Rome Peace Accords but wants to discuss "issues of today" including how the country's vast coal and gas resources will be distributed.
"When we were in Rome there were no mega-projects but today there are," said Mazanga.
If the talks bore fruit, Mazanga indicated, Renamo expected its leader to sign a formal accord with Mozambique's president, Armando Guebuza.
A date for the talks has not yet been set, with the government indicating it is up to Renamo to decide.
"We want them to take place as soon as possible," Mazanga told AFP.