August 7, 2007 / 10:25 AM / 12 years ago

Sudan unhappy at some Darfur rebel demands

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s government is not enthusiastic about some elements of a joint Darfur rebel negotiating platform agreed during U.N. and African Union mediated talks, U.N. Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson said on Tuesday.

Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) field commander Suleiman Marjane (R) and Boubou Niang (L), deputy head of Darfur Peace Agreement Implementation Team (DPIT), arrive to attend unity talks at the African Union and United Nations-sponsored meeting in the Tanzanian resort of Arusha in this undated picture released by United Nations on August 5, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Noy/United Nations/Handout

Eliasson and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim, in an effort to reignite peace efforts, brought many Darfur commanders and groups together for unity talks in Arusha early this week.

They emerged from the meeting in Tanzania with a common platform, including agreement on land issues, power and wealth-sharing ahead of proposed talks with the government.

But Eliasson told reporters after meeting Foreign Ministry officials in Khartoum: “Not all of the points of course are met with great enthusiasm, but it is a basis.”

Khartoum says a Darfur peace deal it signed with one of three rebel negotiating factions in May 2006 should not be reopened to address the concerns of rebels, who have since split into more than a dozen factions.

“The government does not want to have a renegotiation of the DPA (Darfur Peace Agreement) so this is a matter we will discuss both with the government and with the non-signatories — how will we finalize the final agenda,” Eliasson added.

He said the U.N.-AU team would to try to bring government and rebel positions together in the coming weeks to reach a final agenda for talks, due to begin in about two months.

Senior Foreign Ministry official Mutrif Siddig said the government welcomed the Arusha talks, but was disappointed not all the factions were present and that the original timeline, which had envisaged peace talks beginning by August, was lost.

LEGITIMACY

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes during more than four years of rape, murder, disease and looting in Darfur, violence Washington calls genocide.

European governments are reluctant to use the term, which Khartoum rejects. Sudan puts the death toll at 9,000.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants on war crimes charges against a government minister and a militia leader.

On Tuesday ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Khartoum must hand over the suspects.

“Sudan cannot be a pariah country. They know it is important. The government needs legitimacy, so they will respect the law,” Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters in Australia.

Sudan says the ICC has no authority in Darfur.

After months of talks, threats and negotiations, the government finally agreed to a joint U.N.-AU 26,000-strong peacekeeping force in Darfur, but said most of the troops should come from Africa.

But Zambia said on Tuesday the continent could not muster enough soldiers to complete the mission and international troops would have to be found from other areas.

“We don’t have the means,” Foreign Minister Mundia Sikatana told Reuters during a meeting in Malaysia. “Immediately Africa has no capacity to deal with the situation in Darfur.”

Andrew Natsios, U.S. special envoy on Sudan, concurred. “We are going to try to recruit from Africa but it is very clear from already talking to African leaders and military that there are not enough African troops that are trained in peacekeeping operations to make up this force.”

“I think there is an understanding from the Sudanese government that we are going to have to go outside of Africa. This is a sensitive issue,” he told reporters.

The United Nations says the joint force must deploy alongside a renewed political process, as they must have a peace to keep. Assistant secretary-general in peacekeeping Jane Holl Lute said on Tuesday the U.N. was meeting the objective of a predominantly African force.

REBEL ABSENCES

Analysts said the Arusha meeting’s chance of success was hampered by the absence of some important rebel figures, but nonetheless succeeded in boosting unity which has been a major hindrance to talks with the government.

Among those who did not attend was Suleiman Jamous, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) humanitarian coordinator who is seen by experts as key to any lasting peace.

United Nations special envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson welcomes commanders from Sudan's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Mohamed Bashir Ahmed (C) and Fadul Mohamed Idriss (L) as they arrive to attend unity talks at the African Union and United Nations-sponsored meeting in the Tanzanian resort of Arusha in this undated picture released by United Nations on August 5, 2007. Sudan's government is not enthusiastic about some elements of a joint Darfur rebel platform agreed during U.N. and African Union mediated talks in Tanzania, Eliasson said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Fred Noy/United Nations/Handout

He has been hospitalized outside Darfur and risks arrest if he returns. On Tuesday the government said it would lift that threat if the international community guaranteed he would not rejoin armed groups in Darfur.

Eliasson said a seat at any future talks was also available for Darfur SLA leader and founder Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, who refuses any talks until an oil-for-food program and no-fly zone is in place in Sudan’s remote west.

Nur has few troops on the ground but commands huge popular support among Darfur’s largest tribe, the Fur.

Additional reporting by Clarence Fernandez in Malaysia, Rob Taylor in Australia and Sue Pleming in Washington

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