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Sudan set for final peace talks

9/12/2005 5:14pm

KHARTOUM - The Sudanese government said that it was ready to seal a deal with Darfur rebels in their next round of talks later this month and criticised the rebel factions for not showing the same determination to make peace.

"The government delegation is fully mandated to conduct the negotiations and ensure that this round is decisive and final," chief negotiator Majzub al-Khalifa Ahmed said.

"The government is determined that 2005 shall be a year of peace," he said.

Khartoum is due to resume peace talks in Nigeria with the two ethic minority rebel groups active in Darfur - the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

The negotiations had initially been scheduled for August 24, but were put off at the request of the SLM, which said it first needed to hold a conference of its members.

Last week, the group warned it might not even be able to meet the new date.

Analysts say the delay reflects a rift within the movement with one faction, led by SLM leader Abdul Wahid Mohammed Nur, in favour of taking part as scheduled, and another, led by Secretary General Mani Arko Minawi, wanting a postponement.

The government's chief negotiator appealed to the rebels to thrash out a common position for the talks.

"From this platform we direct an appeal to the armed movements to come to the negotiations in a positive spirit and to cast aside their differences for the interest of the whole nation," Khalifa said.

After a visit to Khartoum late last month, US State Department envoy Roger Winter called on the government and the rebels to make one final push for peace.

"From the US perspective, Darfur simply cannot go on... and we truly hope that this upcoming round, whenever it starts, will be handled efficiently and, hopefully, will be the last round," he said.

The launch of the rebel uprising in February 2003 prompted a scorch earth response from the government, which unleashed Arab militias against minority villages suspected of supporting the rebels.

Up to 300,000 people have died and more than two million more fled their homes during the conflict, which has prompted war crimes charges against militia commanders and government officials.


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