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Darfur rebel JEM denies 60-day truce with Sudanese government

Jan 12, 2007 (CAIRO) — Darfur rebel delegates denied on Friday that they had agreed to a cease-fire with the Sudanese government and dismissed Khartoum’s announcement that it was willing to hold talks.

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A member of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

The cease-fire announcement by the government, made after a visit by U.S. state governor Bill Richardson earlier this week, was "probably made for public consumption as we have not been officially consulted in that regard," said Abdullahi el-Tom, a leader of the Justice and Equality Movement rebel group.

The Sudanese government announced Thursday it had agreed to a cease-fire and was willing to conduct new talks with JEM and other rebel groups that refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement signed last May between Khartoum and one rebel movement.

The government gave no date for the cease-fire to take effect, but appeared to say its troops would respect a cessation of hostilities contained in the peace deal brokered last May by the U.S. and African nations.

Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, met in Darfur on Tuesday with delegates from the rebel groups opposing the accord and announced they had agreed to a 60-day cease-fire so that new peace talks could proceed.

But rebel delegates from the Justice and Equality Movement who said they met with Richardson in Darfur denied this.

"We are surprised to read that we have agreed to a 60-day truce in our meeting" with Richardson, JEM said in a statement Friday. It said the JEM delegates met with Richardson for 30 minutes, which it said was too brief to reach a truce deal.

A truce "cannot be obtained as long the government continues in its escalation of violence, aerial bombardment, burning of villages and armament of janjaweed," the JEM said, referring to Arab militiamen backed by the Khartoum government and accused of atrocities against civilians in Darfur.

Delegates from another rebel group that met with Richardon in the North Darfur capital of El Fasher had said they were willing to hold talks with the government if Khartoum respected the truce.

"When the government is serious we have no problem," said rebel Col. Abul Abdallah Ismail of the Sudan Liberation Movement, one of Darfur’s many splinter factions.

Richardson’s office insisted on Friday that the Sudanese president and rebel leaders he met with "made a clear commitment to a 60-day cease fire."

"Nonetheless I do expect glitches like this down the road," Richardson said in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press by his office on Friday.

The JEM group was among the hardline opponents to last May’s peace deal, saying the accord did not give enough guarantees that Khartoum would respect it and didn’t properly compensate people in Darfur for years of suffering.

That agreement has since been violated on almost daily basis by the regular Sudanese army, pro-government militia and rebel forces, according to the United Nations, African Union and international aid groups. Meanwhile, JEM has become the backbone of a rebel coalition that has repeatedly defeated government troops in fighting in northern Darfur.

The U.N. and other international observers also accuse Khartoum’s Arab-dominated government of arming the janjaweed militia of Arab nomads to counter Darfur’s ethnic African rebels, and the paramilitary is blamed for the bulk of the atrocities in nearly four years of conflict that have killed over 200,000 people and displaced another 2.5 million.

Khartoum denies backing the janjaweed, and says its military action is now purely defensive.

Richardson said it was now up to the United Nations and the African Union mission in Darfur "to serve as effective mediators and work out these differences."

"I am confident however that the commitment to a cease fire will hold," the governor said in the e-mail.

Both the Sudanese government and rebel movements have a history of complex and repeatedly broken peace deals, and violence has only worsened in Darfur since the accord signed last May.

Khartoum also opposes a Security Council resolution voted last August for over 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace the understaffed AU force that has achieved little in pacifying Darfur.


Below the text of JEM statement on the issue:

The Sudan Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)

JEM Has Not agreed to 60-day Darfur Truce

JEM Representatives to the AU categorically deny that they have agreed to a 60day Darfur truce with Mr. Richardson, the State Governor of New Mexico, USA.

We are surprised to read that we have agreed to a 60-day truce in our Meeting with US State Governor Richardson. In fact, our session with him, which lasted for 30 minutes, was too brief for concluding such an important deal. During this brief period, we addressed issues raised by the delegation including the Governor of North Darfur and others who accompanied Mr. Richardson into the venue. Matters discussed were mainly centred around recent escalation of violence, attacks on NGOs and commitment to previous ceasefire agreements.

In our response, we indicated that escalation of violence is related to continuous government bombardment of civilians and Movement bases and Janjaweed activities. As for confiscation of civilian properties, we told the delegation that it was done by the Jajaweed and the Abuja faction of the Movements. We offered our evidence for that and we referred them to the attack on Giraida and in which fighters belonging to the Abuja Signatories have been responsible for seizure of 10 vehicles, computers and phones belonging to Relief Organisations. We asked the AU to investigate that and assess our claim.

As for suspension of hostilities, we indicated that we are still committed to N’djamena Protocol of April 2006 and we called for pressure on the government do likewise.

The Meeting also covered ways of creating an environment that is conducive for renewal of peaceful solution of the problem. Our response was very clear. We affirmed that such an environment cannot be obtained as long the government continues in its escalation of violence, aerial bombardment, burning of villages and armament of Janjaweed.

The Meeting has never discussed the Movements entering into a 60-day truce at all. However, Mr. Richardson informed us that he had convinced President Albasheer to accept such a ceasefire. For our part, we restricted our commitment to N’djamena Protocol and have never debated the 60-day agreement.

JEM Representatives to the AU, Alfashir