SUDAN WATCH: Darfur rebels who refused to sign risk UN sanctions - Breakaway members of Nur faction embraced Minnawi and Khalifa while tribal leaders cheered

Friday, May 05, 2006

Darfur rebels who refused to sign risk UN sanctions - Breakaway members of Nur faction embraced Minnawi and Khalifa while tribal leaders cheered

"We are reaffirming that the fighting ends now in Darfur ... We shall go ahead with peace and we shall be serious," [SLA leader] Minnawi said at a signing ceremony at the Nigerian presidential complex.

Two other rebel factions refused to sign, complaining that the document fell short of their basic expectations.

Diplomats said this could pose problems in the implementation phase.

"There will be tests because not all have shown courage and leadership today," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick at the signing ceremony.

"Those parties are bound by the cease-fire as all are," he added.

UN SANCTIONS

The rebels who refused to sign also risk U.N. sanctions such as travel bans or a freeze on assets.

Diplomats had said all along it was most important to persuade Minnawi to sign as he controls more SLA fighters than Nur, while JEM is marginal in terms of forces on the ground.

Nevertheless, Zoellick, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and other leaders and diplomats tried until the last minute to coax Nur into signing, delaying the ceremony by several hours.

Their efforts failed, but a group of members of Nur's faction who were upset with him for refusing to sign burst into the signing ceremony as it was almost ending and said they wanted to be associated with the peace agreement.

FORMER FOES EMBRACED

In an emotive moment, the breakaway members of the Nur faction embraced Minnawi, their former rival, and Khalifa, the government chief, while elderly Darfur tribal leaders in traditional robes and turbans cheered and chanted.

Full report Reuters Estelle Shirbon May 5, 2006.

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