US, UK, EU, UN, AU, Canada, Sudan burning the midnight oil for Darfur Peace
The European Union called on the rebels to come to a "definitive agreement," and said failure would be "irresponsible considering the enormous human suffering."- - -
British Foreign Affairs Minister Ian Pearson warned: "The international community will not understand if they (the rebels) fail to take this opportunity to bring peace to Darfur and security to its people."
Revisions to the peace plan made available to AP called for 4,000 rebels to be integrated into Sudan's armed forces and another 1,000 into the police force. In addition, 3,000 rebels would be given training and education at military colleges. The initial proposal mentioned no figures.
The new deal also would provide for rebels to comprise 33 percent of all newly integrated battalions nationwide, and 50 percent in areas to be agreed, notably Darfur.
Zuma said Wednesday his government had considered integrating no more than 100 rebels into the armed forces, and he expected a final agreement to rest somewhere between that figure and the proposed 4,000.
Zuma said Khartoum was willing to agree to the new proposal for a speedy disarmament. The initial proposal was for them to be confined to barracks for an unspecified transitional period.
Other significant changes included giving the rebels 70 percent of all legislators' seats in the three Darfurian provinces. It would be a major concession from Sudan's government but still does not meet rebel demands for the position of second vice president in the central government instead of the proposed special adviser to the president, which would be the No. 4 instead of No. 3 position in the Khartoum government hierarchy.
Rebel negotiators said they remained concerned about security arrangements. The agreement calls for a protection force for civilians but does not detail its composition. They want a joint protection force including rebels and government, African Union and UN forces.
May 4 KR report: Saif Haroun, a spokesman for the SLM, said the US and British proposal provided for 7,000 to 8,000 rebel troops to be incorporated into Sudanese military and police forces - a plan he said he welcomed.
But late Thursday, Haroun said that rebels and Sudanese officials were still at odds over how and when to disarm the janjaweed. The government says Darfur is home to many Arab militia groups that weren't part of the conflict, and it doesn't want to be obligated to disarm all of them.
May 4 Sudan Tribune report: There was some hope from Ahmed Hussein, a negotiator of the rebel JEM, who said after meeting Benn and Zoellick that it had received "some amendments" on security, power-sharing and compensation."
"We have always remained very positive about the peace agreement, we just wanted the world to acknowledge our demands," he said.
"So now we are going to review the amendments and we should formulate an opinion, hopefully tonight."
- - -
GOVERNMENT OF THE SUDAN
May 4 White House report: When asked if Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha has returned to the Abuja talks, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said "to my knowledge he is not back there."
[Note, any sign of VP Taha arriving in Abuja might signal good news]
May 4, 2006 JIM LEHRER: Do you have the feeling that both sides, meaning the Sudan government and the rebels of Darfur, want this thing resolved now?
SG ANNAN: That is what they say, but we have to test it. We have to really press them to do it.
The lead negotiator for Sudan has gone back to Khartoum, because they indicated they were ready to sign the agreement as put forward by the mediator; the rebels were not ready to sign.
And people have been working with the rebels, and I hope, when the Sudanese mediator, Ali Taha goes back, with the help of all of these presidents and all of this on the ground, that they will be able to steer them in the right direction and get them to sign, because that's the only viable solution.
But it has to be a serious agreement, an agreement that will stand the test of time and make a difference on the ground, not something patched up that doesn't hold...
- - -
DARFUR PEACE TALKS GO ON, DESPITE DEADLINE PASSING
May 4 Reuters report says officials had suggested on Thursday the deadline was likely to be breached as all involved worked into the night to secure a deal - excerpt
Western and African diplomats presented the government and the rebels with an amended version of the peace package on Thursday and put them under intense pressure to accept the plan.May 4 2006 CP: Two top Canadian diplomats were summoned to the Nigerian presidential palace Thursday as part of a small team of international negotiators hunkered down for a crucial night of peace talks on Darfur.
"A package has been put together and presented to the parties, but there are no takers yet," said a senior member of a US-led team of diplomats.
"What we are saying to the (rebels) is, 'Please take it and then we can put pressure on the government'," said the diplomat, requesting anonymity.
Canada's high commissioner for Nigeria, David Angell, and UN Ambassador Allan Rock were joined by officials from the US, Britain and the EU at President Olusegun Obasanjo's residence in Abuja.