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Sudan to change Darfur talks delegation

9/30/2005 7:51pm

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Sudan will change its delegation to the Darfur peace talks to include former southern rebels who joined its coalition government earlier this month, a senior foreign ministry official said on Friday.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) joined the ruling National Congress (NC) party to form a new government following a January peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war in the south.

But the deal did not cover a separate conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region. A sixth round of peace talks is under way in the Nigerian capital Abuja to end that 2-1/2 year old rebellion, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million forced from their homes.

"They are going to participate," Mutrif Siddiq, a senior foreign ministry official told Reuters. "Definitely during this round of talks we are going to include all parties of the new government."

The SPLM have demanded a part in the government delegation to the talks and called for new proposals to resolve the Darfur conflict, which has been called genocide by the United States -- a charge Khartoum denies.

"The SPLM believes that the new Government of National Unity has to have a joint position and a road map of how to resolve the Darfur crisis as soon as possible," Yasser Arman, the SPLM spokesman told Reuters.

Three SPLM members including himself were ready to go to Abuja once that demand was met, he said.

He said the SPLM had good relations with the Darfur rebel movements and mediators and, as new partners in the government, should be directly involved in the talks. These will tackle power and wealth sharing, areas in which the SPLM want a say.

But Siddiq said discussions were continuing at the presidency on whether to adopt a new position at the talks.


Two main Darfur rebel groups took up arms against the central government in Khartoum in early 2003, accusing it of neglect and of monopolising power and wealth in the oil-producing nation.

The international commmunity says Khartoum responded by arming mostly Arab militias, who now stand accused of a campaign of rape, looting and burning in non-Arab villages. The International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes committed during the conflict.

In Darfur, where violence has risen again in the past two weeks, three Sudanese aid workers were reported kidnapped by armed men while working in a refugee camp in North Darfur state.

Ibrahim Mudawi, head of the Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO), told Reuters they had informed the police, United Nations and the African Union, who have about 6,000 forces monitoring a shaky ceasefire in the region.

"Three workers have been abducted in Zam Zam camp yesterday by armed persons," he said. The kidnappers were not wearing uniform and were not government soldiers, he added.

SUDO is a Sudanese non-governmental organisation with about 300 staff in Darfur working on providing healthcare, water and shelter for the millions in camps in the vast region.
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