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Khartoum, Darfur rebels sign ceasefire deal

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-24

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir signed a ceasefire deal on Tuesday with the leader of Darfur's rebel Justice and Equality Movement that will include offering members of the militant insurgent group government positions.

AFP - Sudan and Darfur's main rebel group signed a ceasefire agreement and a framework accord for a final peace deal on Tuesday, which will still need to be backed by other armed factions.
  
Justice and Equality Movement leader Khalil Ibrahim said he and Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir signed the accord, which is due to take effect at midnight in Darfur (2100 GMT).
  
Also present were the host, Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, as well as Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno and Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki.
  
The signing was delayed for more than two hours after the JEM asked the government to agree to postpone general elections set for April, but no deal was reached on that point.
  
JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein said "there is a consensus among the people of Darfur and Sudan that the election must be postponed."
  
For his part, Ibrahim said: "I call on my brothers in the other movements to (come together) in an overall partnership it the service of our country and say, let us unite and commit ourselves together and at the same time to peace."
  
Beshir said the signature in Doha was "an important step toward ending war and the conflict in Darfur."
  
On Saturday, government and JEM representatives inked a framework agreement in Chad proclaiming a "ceasefire" in the seven-year-old conflict.
  
The 12-point provisional deal offered the JEM, long-seen as Darfur's most heavily armed rebel group, a power-sharing role in Sudan, where presidential and legislative polls are to be held in April.
  
Article three stated that the Sudanese government and the JEM agreed on "the participation of the JEM at all levels of power (executive, legislative ...)," according to a copy of the accord seen by AFP.
  
It was not immediately clear if that, and other provisions, were mentioned in the Doha accord.
  
The two sides also agreed on Saturday that the JEM would become "a political party as soon as the final agreement is signed between the two parties" by March 15.
  
The conflict has claimed about 300,000 lives and displaced 2.7 million people, according to UN figures, since it broke out in February 2003. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.
  
But it has also seen a splintering into small factions of rebel groups, fighting against the marginalisation of their region, making efforts to seal a lasting peace in the troubled region a massive task.
  
A ceasefire with the JEM would close the most active front in Darfur, but smaller rebel groups such as the faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army of France-based exile Abdelwahid Nur have refused to enter talks with Khartoum.
  
One of the smaller factions, the JEM-Democracy, also has turned its back on the accord, saying it was biased.
  
However, on Tuesday four of the smaller groups announced that they were merging to form the Liberation Movement for Justice and also hoped to come to an agreement with Khartoum.
  
Beshir's adviser on Darfur, Ghazi Salaheddine, who inked the framework accord with JEM leader Ibrahim on Saturday, has also said he hoped other rebel groups would enter talks with Khartoum.
  
This arrangement "does not exclude other movements specially those who come to the Doha process; we are open to them," he said.
  
On Monday, Beshir said this year will "mark a new Sudan, stable and peaceful, a united Sudan, by the will of its people."
  
Washington has hailed the accord as a "significant move" towards formal negotiations due to resume in Qatar.
  
"We encourage all parties to the conflict to continue working toward a comprehensive agreement that includes the other major armed movements and civil society representatives," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.
  
Britain also praised the accord, with Africa Minister Glenys Kinnock saying "all sides in Sudan must now urgently redouble their efforts for peace."
  
The framework accord calls for the JEM and Khartoum to "launch immediate discussions to reach a (final) agreement."
  
In 2008, a JEM assault on the Sudanese capital brought it to just across the Nile from the presidential palace in the first ever such offensive by a Sudanese rebel group. The fighting cost at least 220 deaths.
  
In other developments, the Qatari emir announced the creation of a Darfur reconstruction bank that he hoped would draw other founders and reach a capitalisation of one billion dollars.

Date created : 2010-02-23

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