Home | News    Wednesday 1 October 2003

Sudan peace deal to be signed in "several weeks": VP

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CAIRO, Oct 1 (AFP) — The Sudanese government expects to sign a final peace agreement with the southern rebels in "several weeks," Vice President Ali Osman Taha said here Wednesday.

"We expect this (signing) to take place in several weeks," Taha said when asked by journalists about the chances for ending the 20-year civil war.

Taha was speaking after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as part of a tour of Arab countries to brief leaders on negotiations with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) taking place in Kenya.

A breakthrough last week on security issues "has established confidence between the two sides and underlined the determination for peace," Taha said.

He added that he would return to Kenya for talks on October 15 with SPLA leader John Garang to follow up on negotiations lower level officials would resume a week earlier.

Those talks will focus on the last sticking points of power-sharing and oil resources, as well as disputed regions.

Both sides have said that last week’s deal in the Kenyan town of Naivasha, which established security arrangements that include integrating some of their forces, would make it easier for other issues to be resolved.

Meanwhile, the northern opposition called Wednesday to be included in the peace talks so that a global agreement could be reached.

Sadeq al-Mahdi, head of the main opposition Umma party, called for "the participation of all political forces in the next talks so that a global solution can be found to restore peace and begin the democratic process in Sudan."

The remarks by Mahdi, who returned to Sudan in November 2000 after a year in exile, came in a statement issued after a meeting with Taha.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir promised Sunday that peace would be reached before the end of the year.

Taha said "the next period will aim to repair (damage) and to revive the economy," as he renewed appeals to Arab countries to invest in economic projects, seen as essential to maintaining national unity.

Under an agreement reached last year, Khartoum and the rebels decided on a six-year transitional period at the end of which the southern Sudanese would vote for unity or secession.

Taha said he would also give a briefing here to Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, the Cairo-based leader of head of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Taha is also due to visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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