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Sudan, eastern rebels sign wealth sharing deal

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Oct 1, 2006 (CAIRO) — Sudan signed a wealth sharing deal with rebels in the country’s east on Sunday and hopes to reach a final peace agreement to end a low-level insurgency there by the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Sudanese media said.

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Mustafa Ismail

The Khartoum government and eastern rebels had earlier reached agreement on security arrangements in the economically important east, and peace talks in the Eritrean capital Asmara will now turn to power sharing, state news agency SUNA reported.

Sudanese Presidential Adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail, head of the government delegation to the talks, expressed "hope that they would sign the final agreement with the Eastern Front before the end of the current holy Ramadan", SUNA said.

Ismail lauded the efforts being exerted by Eritrean side for reaching a peaceful outcome.

Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, began roughly a week ago.

The east has the country’s largest gold mine and its main port, where its oil pipelines take exports to the world market. Despite its riches, it remains one of the country’s most impoverished regions.

The talks to end the low-scale revolt in east Sudan coincide with rising global pressure on Khartoum over a bloodier conflict raging in the country’s western Darfur region, where roughly 200,000 people have died since violence flared in 2003.

CEASEFIRE PACT

SUNA, reporting the fresh agreements with the Eastern Front rebel coalition, said the wealth sharing deal included a 5-year action plan and would be backed by a government fund but it gave few details of what the agreement entailed.

It said that the security protocol, signed on Thursday, included lifting a state of emergency in eastern Sudan.

During about a decade of low-scale conflict, eastern rebels allied themselves with former southern rebels and those from Darfur, and similarly complained that Khartoum exploited their natural resources without developing their region.

But after some insurgents elsewhere in the country signed peace deals to join the central government, the eastern rebels found themselves in a weaker negotiating position.

This year, they also lost control of the Hamesh Koreb area on the Eritrean border where, along with southern rebels, they had based their forces. Under a 2005 north-south deal, the northern army took over the area earlier this year and U.N. peacekeepers later withdrew.

Sudan’s government and eastern rebels had signed a pact to cease hostilities in June, agreeing then on a framework for future talks to focus on wealth and power sharing, as well as security arrangements. The Eastern Front coalition includes both eastern rebel groups and the area’s main political parties.

(Reuters/ST)

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