SUDAN WATCH: Deadline for Darfur peace deal passes - AU drawing up new document to allow dissident factions and commanders to sign peace deal and escape sanctions

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Deadline for Darfur peace deal passes - AU drawing up new document to allow dissident factions and commanders to sign peace deal and escape sanctions

From The Daily Telegraph correspondents in Addis Ababa June 1, 2006:
A MIDNIGHT African Union deadline for holdout Darfur rebels to agree to a peace deal for the troubled western Sudanese region passed with no new signatories, AU officials said today.

"No one has called to say they will sign but they know how to reach us," a senior AU official said at the bloc's headquarters in Addis Ababa after the (7am Thursday AEST) deadline passed.

"We'll see what happens (Thursday) morning and consider it."

Noureddine Mezni, a spokesman for the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), said in Khartoum that AU commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare Konare would today "indicate the next steps to be taken".

Shortly before the deadline expired, Mr Mezni said efforts were still under way by southern Sudan ex-rebel chief, now Sudanese First Vice President, Salva Kiir to "persuade those who did not sign" the pact to do so.

A source close to the negotiations said Mr Kiir had received a delegation led by Konare's Sudan envoy, Baba Gana Kingibe, and that he would himself soon host talks between the AU and holdout rebels in the south of the country.

Yesterday, AU officials in Addis Ababa said a group claiming to represent a JEM splinter faction had arrived there to meet officials just hours before the deadline.

"We have been approached by a certain number of groups who are favourable to the DPA," AU Peace and Security Council commissioner Said Djinnit told reporters, referring to the Darfur Peace Agreement.

Diplomats in the Ethiopian capital said the alleged JEM dissidents were prepared to sign the deal even after a spokesman for the group said it could not agree unless substantial changes were made.

Mr Mezni said AU officials were drawing up a new document that would allow dissident factions and commanders to escape sanctions.

"We are finalising a different document, a mechanism will be put in place to receive the signatures of groups and individuals who have chosen the path of peace," he said.

A source close to the AU said seven field commanders from Abdel Wahid Mohammed al-Nur's holdout SLM faction had arrived in Addis Ababa to join the peace process "and before that many others did the same".

Mr Nur himself has said he will not sign unless Khartoum agrees to pay compensation and give his SLM wing a greater security role and a say in local and federal government.

Officials involved in the peace effort have warned Nur he risks becoming "irrelevant" if he does not sign, but his group's absence from the accord will likely plunge Darfur into further violence.

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