US pushes for Darfur deal before third deadline
The Sudanese government and Darfur rebels face a third deadline to make peace today.
Zoellick's team, along with Britain's International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, and a host of European Union and Canadian diplomats, shuttled between the government and the rebels in a small hotel on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital.
No details filtered out on what exactly the government may have agreed to give.
It is unclear whether the rebels could be persuaded to sign. They are split into two movements and three factions with complex internal politics and a history of infighting, making it hard for them to agree on any major decision. So far, they have insisted they were dissatisfied with many aspects of the draft.
The diplomats were due to present the results of the discussions to AU mediators who would then meet Nigerian Olusegun Obasanjo. He is trying to increase pressure on the parties, along with other African heads of state who are in Abuja for a separate conference.
"There is an astonishing alignment of international pressure and there is a whole array of U.N. sanctions that can be used against people who block a deal so everyone knows there are consequences for not signing," said a Western diplomat, who is closely involved in the talks and requested anonymity.
"But there are a lot of internal divisions in the rebel movement and they are just not structured to make decisions ... it could really go either way," he added.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits Darfur
"The situation (in Darfur) is poor, bad and very alarming and what is particularly sad is to see no progress and a deterioration of the situation," Louise Arbour, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told Reuters in Khartoum.
"I am absolutely persuaded that the sexual violence against women ... is worsening every day," she said after a two-day visit to Darfur this week.
Diplomats called disgruntled members of the Darfur rebel factions who are based in Chad on Thursday to try and stop them from undermining a possible deal in Abuja, said a Western diplomat.
(additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Nairobi and Kamilo Tafeng in Khartoum)
- - -
Aid work cannot be sustained under attack
May 4 2006 IRIN report Clock ticks on third Darfur peace deadline in a week:
In an interview with Reuters news agency, Egeland said a failure to secure a peace deal in Abuja could jeopardise humanitarian operations in Darfur.
"If there is no agreement in Abuja, it could get much worse," said Egeland, "and we are unarmed humanitarian workers, so we cannot sustain it if we are attacked."
See May 4 2006 Opinion piece by Jan Egeland in the Wall Street Journal Darfur: Killing Fields