Sudan sets two-month deadline for deal with rebels
DOHA — Negotiations between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebel groups must be completed within two months, ahead of Sudan's presidential and legislative elections, a senior official has said.
"Some groups are demanding more time. We have told mediators that time is running out and that negotiations must not exceed the third week of March," Sudan's Minister of Culture Amin Hassan Omar said in Doha late Sunday.
"Talks do not require a month or two as outstanding issues are simple. If parties have the political resolve it won't take more than two weeks as we have discussed everything and what remains is to take decisions," he said.
Sudanese government officials and rebel groups present in Doha have not been yet involved in direct talks, Omar told reporters in the Qatari capital.
Instead consultations are being held with mediators from the United Nations, African Union and the host nation, he added.
Omar, a member of the official government delegation, said Sudan is prepared to talk with any of the four rebel groups that is ready for negotiations.
Representatives from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the main rebel group, on Saturday held consultations with mediators to resolve "questions of procedure" before direct negotiations.
Darfur rebels had two rounds of talks with Khartoum government officials in Qatar -- in February and May 2009.
But other factions have refused to join the talks in Doha and the JEM later said there is no point in taking part if there is no unity among the rebels.
Rebels and government officials were also due to meet in November, but the talks failed to materialise.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million fled their homes since the ethnic minority rebels in Darfur first rose up against the Arab-dominated Sudan government in February 2003.
Khartoum says 10,000 people have been killed.
Sudan is due to hold a presidential and parliamentary election in April, the first polls in 24 years.