Home | News    Friday 16 April 2004

Sudanese negotiators call in mediators to help them break impasse in peace talks

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By TOM MALITI, Associated Press Writer

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 16, 2004 (AP) — Sudan’s vice president and the leader of the main rebel group have called in mediators to help them break an impasse in talks to end their 21-year civil war, a rebel spokesman said Friday.

The government has refused to budge on its insistence that Islamic law apply to all residents of Sudan’s capital Khartoum during a six-year transition period, whereas the rebels have changed their position to accept that Islamic law can apply in Khartoum, but only for Muslims, said Yasir Arman, spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

He said the government negotiators were also rigid in negotiations on political power sharing in two disputed areas in central Sudan, which are populated by tribes from southern Sudan.

"The Khartoum position is prolonging the talks and making it difficult to finalize a peace agreement which we are almost reaching. We have decided to seek assistance from the (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) Secretariat," Arman told The Associated Press.

Sudanese government negotiators declined to comment.

Chief mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo told The Associated Press, "Yes, they have asked us to help them resolve the outstanding issues."

He said he didn’t know when Sudan’s Vice President Ali Osman Taha and John Garang, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army would finalize an agreement.

Taha and Garang have been negotiating one-on-one in Naivasha, 60 kilometers (35 miles) west of Nairobi since last September to crack issues such as how government and rebel forces will be treated in an interim period.

The talks between Taha and Garang had made significant progress, with them agreeing at the end of September on what to do with their forces during the transition period. In January, they also signed an agreement on how to divide the wealth in Africa’s largest country.

Finalizing a peace deal for the southern rebellion is important to ending a humanitarian crisis created by a separate rebellion in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where more than 860,000 people have been driven from their homes and thousands killed.

While the fighting is unrelated, a peace agreement with southern rebels would free up diplomatic resources for peace talks to begin in Chad in two weeks to end the fighting in Darfur.

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