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Africa

Gov't and rebels to sign accord, swap prisoners

Latest update : 2009-02-17

Sudanese authorities and Darfur's most active rebel group have agreed to exchange prisoners and sign a declaration of good intentions, Qatari mediators announced on Monday.

  
AFP - Sudan and Darfur's most active rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement have agreed to sign a declaration of good intentions on Tuesday, mediator Qatar said on Monday.
   
The announcement by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani came after the Khartoum government and the JEM group agreed on an exchange of prisoners.
   
"There has been great progress... and we now have an agreement that may be signed," Sheikh Hamad told reporters. Qatar has been mediating peace talks between the Sudanese government and the JEM since last Tuesday.
   
"The content of the agreement, which will be signed tomorrow (Tuesday), has the agreement of all parties," the premier added in reference to all sponsors of the Doha talks.
   
Qatar, the United Nations, African Union and Arab League have all sponsored the negotiations, stressing that the Doha talks are preliminary and intended to pave the way for a broader peace conference on Darfur.
   
The most heavily armed of the Darfur rebel groups, the JEM boycotted a largely abortive peace deal signed by one other faction in 2006. In May last year, it launched an unprecedented assault on the Sudanese capital.
   
"We hope to launch negotiations in two weeks on, among other things, a ceasefire and issues related to the exchange of prisoners," said Sheikh Hamad, who is also Qatar's foreign minister.
   
Sudanese officials and the rebels said earlier on Monday they had agreed on the prisoner swap.
   
"The two sides have committed themselves in principle to an exchange of prisoners, to be freed in successive groups between now and the launch of talks on a framework agreement on peace in Darfur," JEM delegation member Tahar el-Fakih said, according to Qatar's QNA news agency.
   
Amin Hassan Omar, a member of the Khartoum delegation, was quoted by QNA as confirming that "on the principle... there is a commitment to release prisoners and detainees for events linked to the Darfur conflict."
   
The two delegations have been meeting in Doha with a view to paving the way for substantive peace negotiations between Khartoum and the JEM.
   
"The two sides have been asked to supply mediators" with proposals for a common approach on the question of prisoners and "to expect in return a definitive formula from the negotiators," Omar said.
   
Monday's developments followed a long meeting between the heads of the two delegations, JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim and Nafie Ali Nafie, an aide to Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir.
   
The meeting was attended by Ahmed Ben Abdallah al-Mahmud, Qatari minister of state for foreign affairs, and Djibril Bassole, mediator for the United Nations and African Union taskforce in Darfur.
   
According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since rebels in Sudan's western Darfur region rose up against the Khartoum government in February 2003.
   
Sudan puts the death toll at only 10,000.

Date created : 2009-02-16

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