Darfur rebels ponder peace proposal

Rebels participating in negotiations with the Sudanese government to end conflict in the troubled Darfur region have asked for time to consider a key security proposal, a mediator said.

    The AU has deployed Rwandan and Nigerian peacekeepers

    African Union (AU) mediators late on Tuesday submitted a declaration of principles, which they call the Declaration of Abuja, as a framework for political negotiations between rebels and government to halt a war which has claimed about 70,000 lives and displaced some 1.5 million people.


    Security questions remained under discussion, with the rebels requesting more time to consider a response to proposals for an agreement submitted on Monday.


    "The consultations are going on. At 11.00am (1000 GMT) we are having a plenary to discuss the political declaration of principles," said Boubou Niang, political adviser to the mediation team.


    "The delegations asked for more time regarding the security protocol, so we are waiting for their comments."


    The AU mediators late on Monday pressed Sudan's government and Darfur rebel leaders to agree on a joint position on security in the strife-torn western region, during talks aimed at reaching an overall deal to end the 20-month civil war.


    The delegations were presented with a new plan to resolve security issues that have stalled talks on a peace deal since the negotiations resumed in the Nigerian capital on 21 October.


    In New York, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Annan was very concerned by deteriorating security in Darfur.

    On Tuesday, Muhammad Ahmad Tugod, chief negotiator for the rebel Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said: "We have not yet reached a position on the security draft."


    Another rebel movement represented there, the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM), said it would sign the document.


    Khartoum has referred to the
    Janjawid as bandits

    But its spokesman Mahjub Husayn said: "To be really effective on the ground, the protocol has to include a timeframe for the withdrawal of the troops and the disarmament of the Janjawid."


    The Janjawid have been accused of being a pro-government force in Darfur, a claim which Khartoum has strongly denied, saying the Janjawid are outlaws referring to them as "bandits".

    The Sudanese government has also said the Janjawid had agreed to be disarmed and be garrisoned while the rebels have consistently refused.

    Rebels also insisted that certain areas captured by the SLM before a ceasefire signed in Ndjamena should be returned to them.


    The AU has deployed peacekeeping troops from Rwanda and Nigeria on the ground.



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