Sudan: Slow-motion Darfur talks tackle draft declaration

ABUJA, June 14 (Reuters) - Peace talks on the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region progressed at a snail's pace in Nigeria on Tuesday with the opposing camps considering a draft declaration of principles that has yet to be discussed face-to-face.

The African Union (AU), mediator in the negotiations between Khartoum and two Darfur rebel movements, had yet to submit a tentative work schedule to the warring parties.

"I think it's too slow but to be honest it is reasonable to some extent, bearing in mind the logistical problems some of us had to get here and the need to agree on a declaration of principles," said Ahmed Hussein Adam, spokesman for the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

An AU spokesman said the mediators had received proposed amendments to the draft of the joint declaration, that is meant to spell out the basis for the negotiations, from the JEM and the Sudanese government delegation, but not yet from larger rebel group the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).

Adam said key changes the JEM wanted to see to the proposed declaration included that the unity of Sudan should not be taken for granted but be part of a new economic, social and cultural contract -- an idea unlikely to sit well with Khartoum.

JEM also wanted the declaration to say those who committed crimes in Darfur should be brought to international justice.

"We believe that all perpetrators of crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, should be brought to international justice, namely to the International Criminal Court (ICC)," he said.

The ICC last week launched a war crimes probe into the Darfur conflict that is believed to target some government and government-related militias.

But Sudan has rejected any outside trials of Sudanese citizens, saying it would conduct its own trials. It has set up a special court to try alleged criminals in Darfur.

The SLA and the JEM took up arms in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of discrimination and neglect. The government responded by backing Arab militias to expel non-Arabs from their villages.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict and more than two million have fled their homes for overcrowded refugee camps inside Sudan and in neighbouring Chad.

Four previous rounds of talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja ended in stalemate. The new round started on Friday but has been slowed by disagreements over the participation of other African countries.

The JEM has rejected the mediation of Chad, which houses more than 200,000 Darfur refugees, while the Sudanese government objects to the presence of Eritrea, which hosts the two rebel groups and most other Sudanese opposition movements.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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