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Sudan should call new Darfur ceasefire - forum
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Nov 11, 2008 - 8:46:30 AM

Sudan should call new Darfur ceasefire - forum

Tue 11 Nov 2008, 11:58 GMT

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan should call a fresh ceasefire in Darfur and release political prisoners as part of a new peace push, according to a report from a forum backed by the country's president.

The Sudan People's Forum -- made up of ministers and opposition figures but boycotted by Darfur rebels -- also recommended Sudan's government should pay compensation to displaced Darfuris and appoint a national vice-president for the region, said the report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Sudan's government still has to adopt the recommendations, which are the latest in a series of proposed ceasefires and peace plans announced during more than five years of fighting in Sudan's remote west.

But they are likely to become government policy because the forum was created by Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. His dominant National Congress Party has already agreed to be bound by the forum's recommendations.

Bashir set up the forum weeks after the International Criminal Court prosecutor called for him to be tried for war crimes in Darfur. Many observers saw the new body as part of a diplomatic push to deflect the prosecutor's move and to show Sudan could find its own solution to the conflict.

President Bashir is due to announce the recommendations of the forum on Wednesday.

A copy of the report said: "The recommendation is to launch a unilateral ceasefire and call on all the Darfur movements to cease hostilities."

It said political prisoners should be released, but did not say whether that included 50 men sentenced to death after being accused of taking part in an attack on Khartoum in May by Darfur rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement.

The report said Sudan should change its constitution to create a vice-presidential post for Darfur -- if coalition partners of Bashir's party agreed to the move.

Sudan has launched a series of legal, diplomatic and political initiatives over Darfur since the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked judges to issue an arrest warrant for President Bashir in July.

UK-based law firm Eversheds told Reuters late on Monday that Sudan had engaged it to advise it on the ICC's powers, and on Sudan's own efforts to prosecute war criminals in Darfur.

More than five years of fighting has killed 200,000 people and driven more than 2.5 million from their homes, say international experts. Khartoum accuses western media of exaggerating the conflict and puts the death count at 10,000.

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