SLA's Minnawi accepts amended Darfur deal with some reservations re power sharing
"It's done. Minni is going to sign. He has accepted with some reservations ... but he is going to sign," said Noureddine Mezni, a spokesman for the AU of Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) leader Minni Arcua Minnawi.
In a transcript of Friday morning's talks provided to Reuters by the AU, Minnawi is quoted as saying: "I accept the document with some reservations concerning the power sharing."
The main rebel group, the SLA, is split into two factions but observers say Minnawi has more support among SLA fighters than his counterpart Abdel Wahed Mohammed al-Nur.
Nur's SLA faction and the third rebel faction, JEM, have rejected the peace settlement drafted by AU and Western diplomats.
Photo: UK Cabinet member Hilary Benn, right, and Alan Goulty of the British delegation, attends the Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, May 3, 2006. (AP/George Osodi)
May 5 2006 Reuters UPDATE 09:11:12 GMT 10:12 UK: Biggest Darfur rebel faction to sign peace deal-AU. Mediators hope to win government support for the amended draft. There was no immediate word on whether JEM and the other SLA faction would be brought back into the discussions.
May 5 2006 Sudan Tribune (unsourced report): The chief AU mediator at the talks, Salim Ahmed Salim, said more meetings would resume at 9.00am (0800 GMT) after a stormy overnight session, but sounded far from optimistic about how the negotiations could proceed - excerpt:
"It was rough and tough. I'm not encouraged. I think we've reached a point of reality," he told reporters. "We've one consideration in mind, that is the plight of the people of Darfur. It will be a bad day for the people of Darfur if, after all the efforts made and days spent, the (rebel) movements are still wanting," he warned. "We've made the parties realise that their people are dying. They need to think over this. It's time for the leadership of the (rebel) movements to step forward and to help their people," he told reporters.May 5 2006 12:15 PM UK Mail & Guardian report excerpt:
"These are great opportunities which good leadership must take, but this leadership in the movements is in question," he said. Tugod said a peace deal should include a larger provision to bring leaders from Darfur into the Sudanese federal presidency.
As drawn up by the AU, the proposed peace plan would call for a referendum in Darfur to decide whether to create a single administrative region, but only after fighting has halted and national elections have been held.
"Yes Mr Minni Minnawi, of the SLM faction, has accepted to sign the peace agreement although he expressed some reservations on power sharing," said AU spokesperson Nouredine Mezni.
The SLM is the main insurgent group. But a smaller rebel faction, the JEM, was still holding out.
"I have heard of it but we are not part of it. That has not changed our position," said JEM spokesperson Mohammed Tugod.
A spokesperson for the SLM confirmed his faction's agreement to sign: "The last decision we took is that we accept the AU proposal with the new changes but we need to sit with other SLM and the JEM and discuss with them," said Self Eldin Haruon.
"We need to go together or else there is going to be a problem," he added. "The areas in which we need changes effected are power sharing and security arrangement."
Photo: Ahmed Tugod, the chief negotiator for Sudanese Justice and Equity Movement (JEM), gestures at the Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, May 3, 2006. (AP Photo/George Osodi)
SLA (faction of Darfur rebel group SLM) ACCEPTS DEAL
May 5 2006 Reuters UPDATE by Estelle Shirbon Fri May 5, 2006 7:01 AM ET 12:01 PM UK: "I accept the document with some reservations concerning the power sharing," SLA faction leader Minni Arcua Minnawi told Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and a host of senior diplomats meeting at Obasanjo's Abuja compound.
A spokesman for Minnawi's group later said the main reservation was what they saw as insufficient representation in terms of parliamentary seats. The agreement Minnawi's SLA faction accepted was an amended version. These amendments included stronger guarantees for the rebels in the security arrangement. In particular, provisions for rebel fighters to join the Sudanese armed forces were strengthened, as was a requirement Sudan disarm its proxy Janjaweed militias.