Monday, October 22, 2007

Sudan Update: Nation to Halt Fire Against Rebels; SPLM Denies Military Reports

17:04 MECCA TIME, 14:04 GMT

Sudan 'to halt fire' on talks day

More than 2.5 million people have fled their homes in Darfur

Sudan has said it will announce a cease-fire at the start of peace talks with rebel groups on October 27.

Abdelmahmood Mohammed, Sudan's UN ambassador, said on Monday: "This will be a good confidence building measure when all parties agree to a ceasefire, which we are going to announce on the 27th," he said.

"We will declare a ceasefire so that we can give the negotiators a chance to get out with an agreement on cessation of hostilities and ceasefire in the first round of the talks," Mohammed said in an interview.

The talks will take place in the Libyan city of Sirte.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador, urged "all relevant rebel elements" to participate.

"The eyes of the world will be on this meeting," he said Monday.

"Everyone must have a cease-fire immediately when the meeting starts, the government and the rebel side."

"Anyone who doesn't participate or does not observe a cease-fire will have to answer to the international community, to the people of Darfur, and to the people of Sudan," Khalilzad said.


The announcement comes as three Sudanese government soldiers have reportedly been killed as they launched an attack on a camp for people displaced by the conflict in Darfur, the United Nations said.

The fighting at the Hamidiya camp near the western town of Zalengei came just days ahead of planned peace talks between Khartoum and rebel groups in the western province.

A UN spokeswoman said on Monday that troops moved in to the camp on Saturday after reports that residents had killed a government intelligence officer.

The Sudanese military did not immediately comment on the reported attack.

Situation 'worsening'

Rama Yade, France's secretary of state for human rights and foreign affairs, said at the start of a two-day visit to Khartoum and Darfur on Monday that violence in Sudan's remote west was worsening ahead of the talks.

Last week, residents in Kalma camp outside Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, reported a series of raids by government-backed militias.

The African Union, which has 7,000 peacekeepers in the region, later confirmed that the camp had been attacked and several people killed.

The state-controlled Sudanese Media Centre on Sunday reported that 10 per cent of Kalma's population had fled since the violence, which it blamed on clashes between tribal groups in the settlement.

Khartoum denies arming militias or tribal factions in the region but has previously raided camps searching for rebel fighters.

International experts say that about 200,000 people have been killed during the last four years, while more than 2.5 million have been driven from their homes to seek refuge in camps such as Kalma and Hamidiya.

Khartoum says the figures have been exaggerated by the media and campaign groups.

'Immense suffering'

Yade said she had delivered a letter from Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, to Omar Hassan al-Bashir, his Sudanese counterpart, setting out his concerns.

"There is still immense suffering," she said.

"We know from Unicef that 35 children still die every day. We know that women are still raped. We strongly condemn those responsible for these serious crimes, which are crimes against humanity and war crimes."

Yade also said the French government would increase its efforts to persuade defiant Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed el-Nur, the founder of the Sudanese Liberation Army, to leave Paris and attend the talks in Libya.

Nur has demanded a series of concessions from the government to attend the negotiations.

"We will do all we can to persuade him to join those negotiations in the run up to that date," Yade said.

Source: Agencies

Sudan to Announce Darfur Cease-Fire

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
Monday, October 22, 2007

(10-22) 17:42 PDT UNITED NATIONS, (AP)--Sudan will announce a cease-fire at the start of talks with rebel groups on Oct. 27 aimed at ending the conflict in Darfur, the country's U.N. ambassador said Monday.

Ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed said the government decided to declare a cease-fire at the opening session to help promote the success of the talks in the Libyan city of Sirte, the hometown of the country's leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"On that day ... we will declare a cease-fire so that we can give the negotiators a chance to get out with an agreement on cessation of hostilities and cease-fire in the first round of the talks," he told The Associated Press in an interview.

"So this will be a good confidence-building measure when all parties agree to a cease-fire, which we are going to announce on the 27th," Mohamed added.

Earlier this month, the U.N. special envoy to Darfur, Jan Eliasson, called on the Sudanese government and rebel factions to begin the peace talks with a cease-fire agreement and urged both sides to make concessions.

"Fighting should not be the means for achieving political goals," he said.

Past cease-fires in Darfur have been regularly violated and it is doubtful that all rebel groups will sign on to a truce.

A key Darfur rebel chief, Abdul Wahid Elnur, has refused to attend talks if they are held in Libya. Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement is also threatening to boycott unless the U.N. and African Union can persuade the rival Sudan Liberation Army to unite its splinter factions for the negotiations.

More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been uprooted since ethnic African rebels in Darfur took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in February 2003, accusing it of decades of discrimination. Sudan's government is accused of retaliating by unleashing a militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed — a charge it denies.

The government signed a peace agreement with one rebel group in May 2006, but other rebel groups refused — and many of those groups have since splintered, complicating prospects for a political settlement.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad urged "all relevant rebel elements" to participate in the talks.

"Everyone must have a cease-fire immediately when the meeting starts, the government and the rebel side," he said Monday.

"Anyone who doesn't participate or does not observe a cease-fire will have to answer to the international community, to the people of Darfur, and to the people of Sudan," Khalilzad said.

The peace negotiations will be taking place at a time when the U.N. and the African Union are pressing to deploy a 26,000-strong joint peacekeeping force in Darfur to replace the beleaguered 7,000-strong AU force now on the ground.

Khalilzad said the United States is "not satisfied" with Sudan's cooperation in making land available for the new troops — and with its failure to approve the composition of the AU-U.N. hybrid force.

He urged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to approve the force "as quickly as possible," stressing that it is predominantly African — as Sudan demanded — with more than 90 percent of the ground troops from Africa.

Asked whether Sudan has agreed to the hybrid force, Sudan's Mohamed said "largely yes."

"We told them ... whatever battalions are ready, send them," he said, rejecting the suggestion that Sudan was somehow obstructing the deployment.

Mohamed criticized the U.N.'s decision to award a $250 million contract without competitive bidding to the California company Pacific Architect Engineers, Inc., to build five new camps in Darfur for 4,100 U.N. and AU personnel.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said last week the complexity of the project and the challenging timeline mandated by the Security Council required a contractor with considerable experience in Darfur.

But Mohamed said the contract violates U.N. procedures and rules and Sudan will protest to the General Assembly.

"We are not happy, and the whole international community is unhappy about how rules are here dodged on the ground like this to make happy the United States businessmen," he said.

Former Sudan Rebels Dismiss VP’s Accusations

News Article by VOA posted on October 22, 2007 at 15:34:55: EST (-5 GMT)

Former Sudan Rebels Dismiss VP’s Accusations

Voice Of America
By Peter Clottey - Washington, D.C.
22 October 2007

Former rebels of the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) have described as baseless and unfounded an accusation that the SPLM is amassing forces and escalating tension in the country. This follows Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha’s news conference yesterday, in which he accused the SPLM of causing a political crisis after pulling out their ministers from the country's unity government. Taha also urged the SPLM to return to the capital, Khartoum, to restart work on implementing the fragile North-South peace deal.

But the SPLM denies escalating tensions saying that it is committed to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, which effectively ended the war. From Khartoum, SPLM Vice Chairman Malik Agar tells reporter Peter Clottey that the vice president’s accusation is regrettable.

“First of all, we expected him to aspire to help in resolving some of the issues in this crisis because he is one of the core engineers of this agreement. His press conference and what has come there is very unfortunate. He has raised so many issues in the press conference, which we not necessarily agree with, and we also respect his opinion that he does not agree with the many issues that we have raised. But the first thing is that either these things are being resolved or not resolved,” Agar said.

He denied the SPLM is massing forces that have reportedly heightened the political crisis.

“It’s not true. That is totally not true because we are not mounting any forces and mounting forces is an intention of war, and we’ve made it clear that again and again that we have no intention of going back to war… and we don’t go to war easily like that. So we are not preparing for war, we are preparing for peace and are committed to the implementation of the CPA,” he noted.

Agar reiterated the SPLM is committed to seeing to the implementation of the agreement that ended the war in 2005.

“To be told that we control ourselves, we have never gone out of control. And we are also committed to the implementation of this agreement. This is why we raised the issues. Those issues are not implemented. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have bothered ourselves to raise issues, which are not implemented. By not implementing the issues, that is what is making the people uncomfortable, uncomfortable because issues that are not implemented are raised. That would defeat the case,” Agar pointed out.

He said the only way to achieving total peace is for the CPA to be fully implemented.

“We are telling our partners to implement the peace to the letter and the spirit, and we are urging them really. This is the only way out for us to continue our partnership. We want them really to commit themselves to the implementation of the CPA. We don’t want to accuse anybody of anything because we are not in the courts of anybody. What we are saying is that there is there are some issues that are not being implemented and we are blaming the other side that they are the cause of not implementing these issues,” he said.

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