Sunday, April 30, 2006

Darfur rebels stall Peace deal Sudanese gov't willing to sign

Just in from Reuters via Times of Oman: The Sudanese government accepted Darfur peace deal today and said any outstanding disagreements on issues such as security and power-sharing could be negotiated later. On security, diplomats say the rebels want more favourable terms for a planned integration of some of their forces into the Sudanese army. Apart from security, their main problem with the document is that it does not meet their demands for Darfur to get a new post of Sudanese vice president and a new regional government. They have other objections on issues such as compensation.

Also, the following news reports just in, mid afternoon here in England, UK, Sunday April 30:

Voice of America: The rebels say the proposed deal fails to give Darfur a vice presidential position in the Sudanese government. Rebel leaders also want better terms for integrating their forces into the Sudanese army, and for disarming pro-government Janjaweed militias. The Sudanese government has said it is willing to sign the draft agreement. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, says the successful completion of the Abuja talks would improve the situation of Darfur's two million refugees. Arbour is in Khartoum ahead of a visit to Darfur beginning Monday.

Lebanese Al-Manar TV: On deadline day, Sudan agrees to sign a Darfur peace deal but rebels threaten to pullout - A spokesman for one of the Darfur rebel groups, JEM, told reporters his side wanted prior guarantees from the international community that the peace deal would be enforced.

China Broadcast/Reuters: Sudan Accepts Darfur Peace Deal - "The [Sudanese] government ... wishes to confirm its decision to formally accept this document and its readiness to sign it," said a statement from Majzoub al-Khalifa, head of the government's negotiating team at peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

UK Darfur peace proposal accepted - The rebels have yet to respond officially to the 85-page document but several of their leaders complain that it does not meet their key demands, in particular on power sharing.

Associated Press: Sudan says it's ready to sign Darfur deal -
The Sudanese government formally confirmed Sunday that it is ready to sign a draft agreement with rebels from its Darfur region, but the rebels said they still have reservations about the deal. "We have some reservations about the draft peace agreement," said Ahmed Hussein, a spokesman for one of the two rebel factions, the JEM. "We are going to forward our reservations to the mediation after our meeting." Another rebel faction, the SLM, has asked for an extension to the Sunday deadline.

As of Wednesday, when an initial draft of the agreement was first circulated, the proposed agreement addressed complaints from Darfur rebel groups that they had been neglected by the national government. It called for the president to include a Darfur expert, initially nominated by the rebels, among his top advisers.

The draft, noting that Darfur was "historically deprived" and suffered severely from the war, also called for the establishment of a rehabilitation fund to which international donors would be asked to contribute, suspension of school fees at all levels for students from Darfur for five years, and the adoption of a national anti-poverty plan. In the draft, mediators also proposed that the people of Darfur vote by 2010 on whether to create a single geographical entity out of the three current Darfur states, which would presumably have more political weight. The draft agreement calls for the disarmament of the Janjaweed. It also calls for some rebels to be integrated into the national army and security forces and others to be disarmed.
Reuters (Estelle Shirbon): Darfur rebels say they are talking amongst themselves to seek a consensus on whether to sign a peace deal -
Decision-making is an arduous process for them as they are split into two movements and three factions with a history of infighting. The AU started meeting with one of the SLA factions on Sunday to hear their reaction to the document.

Minni Arcua Minnawi, the leader of the other SLA faction, said his group would give its position to the AU later in the day and was not ready yet to say what that was.

The other group, the JEM, was expected to give a separate submission. JEM's chief negotiator, Ahmed Tugon, said the government's statement "is an attempt to increase pressure on the movements and it clearly indicates that this document favours the position of the government."

The [no-frills] Chida International Hotel at the epicentre of the negotiations was packed with diplomats and Sudanese representatives. The atmosphere in the hotel was charged as pressure built to reach a deal.

Meetings involving all the parties continued through the night and into the day. Sudanese and diplomatic sources said SLA rebels and the government had held direct talks.
Sudan Tribune: Darfur rebels may reject peace agreement -
"I don't think we are going to accept the AU proposal. We have not got enough time to go through the document," said Saisaledin Haroun, a spokesman for the main faction of the SLM. He said the SLM had received the Arabic version of the draft accord only on Saturday. "We are not satisfied with the AU document," Haroun added, adding that the SLM would coordinate with another rebel outfit, the JEM, to forge a "common position" by the end of the day. JEM chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod said his group had "resolved not to sign the AU peace agreement", although he said this could change after its talks with the SLM.

AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni said that the bloc's mediation team "has not received any reply to the peace proposal either from JEM or from SLM".

"Our position on the issue is very clear. We are sticking to the deadline we set, which has the support of the United Nations," he said.

"We in the AU are mediators. The parties to the conflict are going to be the implementors of the peace accord. We have done our job and we are still maintaining contacts with them on the matter," he said.

The UN secretary general's special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, and his AU counterpart Baba Gana Kingibe are expected to hold "intensive consultations" Sunday with the parties with a view to pressurising them to sign the peace deal, a member of the mediation team said.

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