Sudan: IRIN News Briefs, 7 January

SUDAN: SPLM for peaceful solution but "shariah" key
Leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) John Garang says his movement supports a peaceful solution to the over 40 years' conflict between Khartoum and southern Sudan. In an interview with the Kenya Television Network (KTN) in Nairobi on Thursday Garang said "Khartoum insists on its vision for the Sudan - an Islamic state, an Arab state". "On the issue of religion and the state, it is clear that we cannot agree on this issue," he said. "They are not going to abandon shariah, and we are not going to accept to be governed by shariah," he said. "So we are saying let us count this as a point of agreement, that we have agreed to disagree," Garang noted. "We have a specific suggestion that in the interim period we have a confederate arrangement, a confederation, whereby the north will have a separate constitution, the south a separate constitution," he said. "At the end of the interim period, the people of the southern Sudan and other areas, Nuba mountains and Funj areas of southern Blue Nile will exercise the right of self-determination to choose between whether to continue this form of union, confederate union, or to go for outright independence," he said. He said his movement is fighting for justice, equality for all in the country and insists that the Declaration of Principles (DOPs) of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) be implemented. Talks between the Sudan government and SPLM are scheduled to resume in Nairobi on 15 January, an official of the SPLM confirmed to IRIN on Friday.

SUDAN: Politicians demand self-determination for the south

A coalition of government, opposition politicians, and political activists in Sudan on Tuesday called for a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported. The group urged all Sudanese, foreign governments, regional and international institutions to support a ballot for self-determination. Egyptian and Libyan foreign ministers who were in the country then, reiterated their countries' opposition to the division of Sudan. The group comprised of representatives from southern Sudan in the ruling National Congress, the United Democratic Salvation Front and the Union of Sudanese African parties.

SUDAN: Canada protests to Sudan over military flights

The Canadian government has reportedly protested to Sudan after its discovery that military aircraft have been operating from a civilian airstrip in the southwest Heglig oil fields which are the site of a major oil concession in which Canadian oil firm Talisman Energy Inc. owns a 25 per cent stake. Reuters reported on Thursday that the Canadian foreign Minister LIoyd Axworthy had sent a protest letter to Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday because he worried that the planes could be used to attack rebel forces and cause civilian casualties. It quoted a foreign ministry spokesman Sean Rowan as saying the minister had also summoned the Sudanese charge d'affaires in Ottawa to ask for an explanation. The minister acted after John Harker, who led a probe late last year into whether the Sudanese oil extraction industry was linked to human rights abuses, reported that there were military aircraft operating in these oil fields. Axworthy has threatened sanctions against Talisman "unless it does more" to help broker an end to a long-running civil war between the Sudan government and the southern rebels.

SUDAN: Turabi rejects Qatari compromise

Former speaker of the Sudan national assembly Hassan al-Turabi on Tuesday said he had agreed to a Qatari mediator's proposal that he step down as secretary-general of the ruling National Congress (NC) party, but not that he be replaced by President Omar al-Bashir. "Qatar's foreign minister proposed that I resign as secretary-general of the NC party," AFP quoted him as saying. "I told him: 'certainly, I accept'," he said. "He came back a second time to propose that the post of secretary-general be given to the president (Omar al-Bashir) and not a third party," Turabi said. "The fact that the post of secretary-general is given to the president of the republic is against the parliament's decisions and its statute does not allow the accumulation of these posts," he added.

SUDAN: Minister acknowledges failure of the Qatari initiative

Meanwhile, Sudan's acting minister for Culture and Information Ghazi Salah al-Din on Wednesday said the Qatari initiative had not achieved its objectives, Sudanese Television reported. He told journalists that Sudan was grateful to the Qatari government for its "constant" and "ardent" determination to effect the resolution of Sudan's problems.

SUDAN: Egypt, Libya issue joint communique after talks

Talks between Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa, the secretary of the Libyan General People's Committee for External Liaison Umar al-Muntasir and the Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il ended on Tuesday with the three ministers signing a joint communique in which they stressed the strategic relations linking the three countries. The communique stated that the Libyan-Egyptian initiative derives its special importance from the fact that it pursues the path of a comprehensive solution toward realising peace and national accord in the Sudan, affirming the importance of uniting their efforts to support this initiative, the Sudanese news agency (SUNA) said. It underscored the continuity of the countries' endeavours to consolidate the relations between them in political, economic, cultural and other fields, in compliance with the agreement achieved by leaders of the three countries. It also stressed the importance of coordination between the IGAD and the joint Egyptian-Libyan initiatives. The ministers agreed to hold periodical meetings in any capital of the three countries successively, under the chairmanship of one of them. A preparatory meeting for these meetings is to held at the experts' level in Cairo in February.

SUDAN: Crop conditions favourable

USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) has said that crop conditions are "generally good" and favourable harvests are anticipated in most of southern Sudan due to abundant rainfall. In its latest report, FEWS said many farmers have received crop seeds and have managed to plant them, "easing fears of another devastating famine in southern Sudan this year". It said production increases are most significant in Western Equatoria, Lakes Region, Bor county and Upper Nile/Jonglei region. It also reported that malnutrition levels have improved since late June, when a seasonal rise in malnutrition normally occurs. Pasture conditions are reportedly satisfactory in most regions, especially in Upper Nile region, although flooding has constrained access to some areas.

FEWS said that preliminary results from Operation Lifeline Sudan's (OLS) Annual Needs Assessment (ANA) exercises suggest poor and erratic rainfall levels have however caused crop failures in sizeable areas of eastern Equatoria and Jonglei. It said in Kapoeta county, eastern Equatoria, low crop yields have led to depleted livestock holdings. Food shortages are also expected in northern Bahr el Ghazal region, particularly in Gogrial and Aweil east counties as well as parts of Kordofan and Darfur regions. It also reported that food needs are great among a large number of returnees from the north in Atukuel and Panthou in Aweil east county.


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