Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Darfur peace talks extended for second time

A new deadline of 48 hours has now been set. It expires on Thursday night.

The original deadline for signing the deal expired on Sunday, prompting a new extension - till Tuesday - and a flurry of diplomatic activity.

Darfur peace talks in Abuja

Photo: US Deputy Secretary of State Robert B Zoellick, 3rd from left, and US Charge d'Affaires in Khartoum Cameron Hume, 2nd from left, meet with leaders of Darfur rebel factions at Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria Tuesday, May 2, 2006. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Meanwhile, AU mediator Salim Ahmed Salim urged the black African rebels "to show leadership and make the compromises necessary for peace, for the sake of the people of Darfur".

SLA commanders

Photo: SLA commander at Darfur peace talks in Abuja May, 2006 (AP/BBC)

Reuters news agency quoted a diplomat involved in the mediation as saying that the rebels would be discredited if they reject the deal.

The BBC's Alex Last in Abuja says mediators hope that the proposed deal can be amended to increase the number of rebels integrated into the army, while dropping the provision that the Janjaweed disarm before the rebels.

The government is unhappy at this provision, even though it has signed the deal.

But the rebels are also said to be unhappy about arrangements concerning power-sharing and wealth distribution in the vast desert region. They are also reportedly concerned that the peace deal may not be properly implemented.

"The extension of the deadline does not have any meaning for us," said Saifaldin Haroun, spokesman of the main SLM faction, according to the AFP news agency.

"The AU peace proposal does not address our crucial concerns."

SLA rebels

Photo: Darfur rebels in western Sudan (AP/BBC)

UN's Egeland to visit Sudan Saturday to meet senior officials and visit Darfur.

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