SUDAN WATCH: US, Britain push for Darfur deal - UK's Benn arrives in Abuja

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

US, Britain push for Darfur deal - UK's Benn arrives in Abuja

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and Britain's International Development Secretary Hilary Benn arrived in Abuja today and diplomats said their presence could help jolt the rebels into signing, Estelle Shirbon (Reuters) reports:
"Despite all its shortcomings, this process has yielded a draft agreement which is the best the (rebel) movements will get ever," said Alex de Waal, an adviser to the African Union (AU), which is mediating the talks.

"They have to make the shift from criticizing the many injustices that they and their people have suffered, to seeing that a much better future can be grasped on the basis of this agreement."

The top two AU officials - Chairman Denis Sassou Nguesso and commission head Alpha Oumar Konare - are set to arrive in Abuja on Wednesday, which diplomats said could indicate that the deadline, already put back by 48 hours, will slip again.
Read more in full report at ABC May 2 2006 - excerpt:
The rebels took up arms in early 2003 in ethnically mixed Darfur, an arid region the size of France, over what they saw as neglect by the Arab-dominated central government.

Khartoum used militias, known locally as Janjaweed and drawn from Arab tribes, to crush the rebellion. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people while a campaign of arson, looting and rape has driven more than 2 million from their homes into refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad.

Washington, which labels the violence in Darfur "genocide," is intensifying efforts to resolve the conflict.
Note, the report explains that under a U.S. proposal, a section of the AU draft that requires the government to disarm the Janjaweed before the rebels lay down their weapons would be amended to better suit the government. In return, Khartoum would accept a detailed plan for integration of specific numbers of rebel fighters into the Sudanese security forces. This is a key rebel demand.
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May 2 2006 IRIN US, Britain urge Darfur factions to sign up to peace - AU deadline for signing peace deal expires midnight tonight. US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and Brtain's Development Secretary Hilary Benn have both travelled to Abuja to guard against further slippages.

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