Home | News    Tuesday 6 April 2004

Sudan’s government, rebels agree on key peace talk issues

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NAIROBI, April 6 (AFP) — Sudan’s government and main rebel group have reached agreements on power-sharing and the status of three disputed regions, key outstanding issues in marathon peace talks, the Kenyan mediator said.

"There has been very good progress, they have agreed on packages on power-sharing and the conflict areas," Lazaro Sumbeiywo told AFP by phone from venue of the negotiations in Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi.

"But they have asked for four to five days in order to sign something. Now what is remaining are details on security arrangements (during a post-war interim period) and implementation modalities," added Sumbeiywo, who declined to divulge details of the agreements.

"Generally they have agreed on the key issues, now the technical committees are working on finalising issues, which of course may take days," an official from the mediation, who did not want to be named, told AFP.

"Of course, in these kind of talks, by experience, it is when it has been signed that one is to say things are finished," the official added.

Sudan’s Vice President Ali Osman Taha and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang began a series of face-to-face negotiations in September last year.

Lower-level discussions aimed ending a civil war that broke out in 1983 were launched in Kenya in 2002.

The latest deals centre on the administration of three disputed regions — Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile — as well as the sharing of political and administrative posts as well as whether the capital Khartoum would be free from Islamic law or not.

While the disputed areas are not strictly part of southern Sudan, the SPLA claims to represent the people of the three regions.

A long-running conflict in Sudan resumed in 1983 when the south, where most people confess to Christianity and numerous traditional religions, took up arms to end the domination of the wealthier, Arabised and Muslim north.

Alongside famine and diseases, the civil war has claimed at least 1.5 million people and sent more than four million others fleeing their homes.

Since July 2002, when they struck an accord granting the south the right to a referendum after a six-year transition period, other deals have been reached on a 50-50 split of the country’s wealth — particularly revenues from oil, which is concentrated in the south — and how to manage Khartoum and SPLA armies during the interim period.

In a separate deadly conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, more than 10,000 people are thought to have died in a year of vicious skirmishes between rebels and government-backed militia groups. United Nations announced on Tuesday that it had began probing allegations of widespread atrocities in Darfur.

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