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Sudan peace talks in Kenya postponed to August 3: rebels


NAIROBI, July 22 (AFP) — The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) said Tuesday that Sudanese peace talks expected to resume this week in the Kenyan town of Nakuru have been postponed to August 3.

"The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediator has informed the SPLA that the peace talks in Nakuru have been postponed to August 3, at the request of the Sudan government," SPLA deputy spokesman George Garang told AFP by telephone.

The talks had been due to resume on Wednesday.

Speaking in Khartoum on Monday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said the talks could be postponed for a week "to allow the parties more time to prepare".

The sixth round of talks aimed at ending a 20-year war between the Sudan government and the SPLA ended on July 12 with the government rejecting draft proposals on outstanding issues such as power- and wealth-sharing and the status of the capital during a six-year transition period agreed in 2002.

The proposals were drawn up by mediators of IGAD, which groups the east African states of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and nominally Somalia.

According to the SPLA, one bone of contention was the government’s refusal to suspend Islamic law in the capital Khartoum during the transition period when mediators had proposed that the city serve as a joint capital.

The government also demanded that SPLA troops be integrated into the national army during the transition period, rejecting the idea that both sides maintain their own armies.

In the latest phase of a north-south conflict that goes back to the 19th century and beyond, the SPLA rebels have been fighting Khartoum forces since 1983.

The war has killed more than two million people and displaced more than four million.

Sudanese state-run Omdurman Radio quoted Sudan’s presidential peace advisor Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani as saying from Kenya that the IGAD Secretariat would propose postponement of the seventh round "until the beginning of next month."

"We have not until now received an official notification on this matter," Atabani was quoted as saying before returning to Khartoum. "It is no longer practical to hold the negotiations tomorrow."

He said he had held separate meetings in Nairobi with Kenya’s president and foreign minister, both in the presence of chief mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo, and discussed with them the status of the negotiations.

Atabani said he handed President Mwai Kibaki a message from President Omar al-Beshir explaining the problem over the draft peace document and "containing consultations for surmounting the current obstacle".

Beshir was quoted by Al-Anbaa daily as stressing, however, that his government remains committed to the peace process as "a strategic option for putting an end to the war".

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