Home | News    Tuesday 25 January 2005

Sudanese foreign minister says he will stand down within two months

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KHARTOUM, Sudan, Jan 25, 2005 (AP) — Sudan’s foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, said Tuesday he will stand down within two months as part of the peace deal to end the 21-year southern civil war.

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Mustafa Osman Ismail

On return from Saudi Arabia where he performed the hajj pilgrimage, Ismail said quitting was the least some incumbent Cabinet ministers could do to support the peace agreement between his government and southern rebels signed Jan. 9 in neighboring Kenya.

"We know that our departure will be within two months and we are getting ready for departing as if it were going to take place tomorrow," said Ismail, Sudan’s foreign minister for the past seven years who has led Khartoum’s diplomatic efforts in dealing with the southern war and the separate Darfur conflict.

Ismail’s position is expected to go to an official from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the rebel group led by John Garang that agreed to end the war with the Islamic-oriented government of President Omar el-Bashir.

The war killed more than 2 million people, mainly through famine and disease, and left more than 4 million homeless.

SPLA leaders unanimously endorsed the peace deal Monday, which sees Garang become Sudan’s first vice president. Sudan’s national Parliament also must sign off on the deal. Deliberations in the capital, Khartoum, begin Saturday.

It was not immediately clear how many current Cabinet ministers would make way for SPLA members.

Once ratified, the deal is legally binding on all sides, clearing the way for the drafting of a new constitution and formation of a government in which insurgents will receive 30% of seats. In six years, southern states will have an opportunity to vote on secession.

The 21-year war has pitted the Arab Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum against rebels fighting for greater autonomy and a larger share of the country’s wealth in the largely African Christian and animist south.

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