Sudan's former foes agree timetable for peace deal
By Opheera McDoomSun Nov 4, 4:36 AM ET
Sudan's former foes have agreed steps to implement a 2005 north-south peace deal, First Vice President Salva Kiir said on Sunday, indicating the country's worst political crisis in years may soon be resolved.
The announcement raised hopes that ministers from the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) will return to coalition government, ending a political paralysis that set in after they froze the partnership last month.
"The Presidency ... approved a number of principles on which basis presidential decrees will be issued to authorize a timetable and mechanisms of implementation which will resolve all the issues," Kiir said in a statement read by his press attache.
He added work was ongoing to resolve a dispute over the oil-rich Abyei region, but he did not say if or when SPLM ministers, about a quarter of the cabinet, would return to their posts.
Sudan's north-south deal ended Africa's longest civil war which claimed 2 million lives and drove 4 million from their homes.
But the SPLM said they were frustrated at the lack of progress to implement key parts of the peace deal, including withdrawing northern forces from southern oil fields and demarcating the north-south border.
U.S. envoy Andrew Natsios said after meeting both sides he felt optimism and a real drive to implement the deal from the SPLM and the northern National Congress Party (NCP).
"The kind of language I heard was very constructive, very flexible. They realized that there was a problem, they both faced it and they're fixing it," he told Reuters.
Natsios said two outstanding issues were Abyei and the north-south border. But he said progress was being made, adding the border demarcation depended largely on outlining the central Abyei region's boundaries.
Natsios said deadlines had been set to implement the deal by the beginning of next year. "So we will know within two months if these initiatives are implemented," he added.
Kiir said the SPLM was not building up its troops along the north-south border as reported by Khartoum's press, but said the northern army were ready for battle.
"Since July they (the northern army) have been in a state of readiness ... probably because they expected the SPLM to attack them," said Kiir.
The northern troops were supposed to withdraw by July 9 this year according to the deal. Kiir said southern soldiers remained in their camps.
Kiir said a joint six-member committee would be formed to resolve outstanding issues.
Kiir visits the United States this week to brief the U.N. Security Council and travel to Washington.
The dominant northern National Congress Party has blamed the SPLM for derailing peace talks in Sudan's remote western Darfur region which formally opened on October 27 in Libya with none of the main rebel factions in attendance.
Many of the rebels said until the SPLM returned to the coalition the government was not legal and others questioned why, if the north-south deal was not being implemented, they should negotiate an accord with the NCP.
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