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Sudan talks may break for consultations

ABUJA, Nigeria, Sep 9, 2004 (PANA) — As African Union (AU) mediators at the
Sudan peace talks in Nigeria express their impatience with the
slow pace of negotiations, there were indications Thursday that
the parties may take a break from the talks to enable them
consult on the knotty issues.

“I think the consensus is for the talks to be put on hold and
allow the parties to go home and confer with their people,”
sources at the talks told PANA in Abuja Thursday.

“What is holding that is the absence of the AU chairman,
President Olusegun Obasanjo, from the country. We will like to
brief him first before the decision is taken,” the sources
said.

Host President Obasanjo is expected to return later Thursday
after chairing the AU summit on employment and poverty
alleviation, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

There are indications that Obasanjo may meet with the parties
on his arrival, in what will be the third such session since
the negotiations opened in the Nigerian capital 23 August
between the Sudanese government and the two rebel groups which
took up arms against it 18 months ago.

The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) are fighting the government.

Since the talks moved to the security issue, following an
agreement on the humanitarian matters last week, negotiations
have been dragging, giving an impression that the talks have
stalled.

But the AU denied there was a deadlock, even though it admitted
there were problems at the talks.

“I can tell you that we on the side of the AU are becoming
impatient with the way the discussions are progressing at the
moment,” an AU official told PANA Thursday.

The official confirmed that the government delegation and the
movements have been “unrealistic” in their demands and
suggested amendments to the draft security protocol put forward
by the mediators.

On the government side, PANA learnt the mediators are not happy
with their demand that disarmament be crafted without any
mention of the “Janjaweed”, Arab militias accused of
perpetrating most of the human rights abuses in the Darfur
region.

The Janjaweed militias, allegedly armed and supported by the
government, are blamed for most of the atrocities that have
left 50,000 people dead and more than one million others
displaced since the fighting started February 2003. The
government denies arming the Janjaweed.

On the movements’ side, PANA was told their demand for an
international inquiry into the abuses, declaration of no-fly
zone and additional AU troops in Darfur were all “unrealistic”.

“Why are they making all these demands when the United States
has already presented a proposal before the United Nations
requesting for all that, and by the way the government of Sudan
would not accept a declaration of part of its country as a no-
fly zone,” a mediator said.

Commenting on the tough stance by the parties, AU spokesman
Assane Ba told PANA, “These are normal situations in talks like
this”.

He, however, urged the delegates to “be more realistic in their
demands, because time is running out everyday that concrete
progress is not made at the talks”.

Apart from the humanitarian and security issues, the parties
still have to deal with political as well as economic and
social matters, the two other items on the four-point agenda
for the talks.

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