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Sudan to sign pact with small group
Khartoum mulls truce with smaller Darfur group after talks with major faction falter.
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2010 10:59 GMT
Sudan and Jem signed a pact last month but talks between the two parties have since stalled [EPA]

The Sudanese government is set to to sign a deal with a small Darfur rebel group as talks with the larger Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) falter, according to a cabinet minister.

The deal to be signed in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Thursday with the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) comes after a deadline set for the completion of peace negotiations between Khartoum and Jem passed on Monday without agreement.

"The accord will be signed on Thursday in the presence of Sudanese vice-president Ali Osman Taha," Amin Hassan Omar, Sudan's culture minister, told reporters in Doha.

Sudan and the Jem signed a pact in Doha last month, seen as a major step towards bringing peace to Darfur, but it has since run into difficulty.

The Gulf state of Qatar has been mediating between various Darfur groups and the government in Khartoum with a view to finding a lasting peace in Sudan's western region.

Jem threat

The Sudan Liberation Army, a major faction led by Abdelwahid Nur, has so far refused to have any negotiations with the government.

Earlier this month it clashed with the army in the fertile Jebel Marra plateau in the heart of Darfur.

in depth
  Timeline: ICC and Sudan
  Timeline: Darfur crisis
  Profile: Omar al-Bashir
  Riz Khan: Ignoring Sudan?
  Riz Khan: Sudan's interlocking crises
  Inside Story: Sliding back into civil war
  The role of the ICC
  Drought and conflict in South Sudan
  Who are Sudan's Jem rebels?

On Wednesday, Sudanese authorities re-arrested 15 members of Jem after releasing them following a truce with the group.

Adam Bakr, the lawyer representing the rebels, said they were arrested when they went to Al-Fashir, the  capital of north Darfur.

Omar Alsaleh, Al Jazeera's correspondent at the ongoing talks in Doha, said: "There will be anger obviously by the signing of this agreement.

"Jem said that if there is a parallel agreement with other groups they will walk out.

"[But] diplomats said that Jem are under tremendous pressure to stay in Doha and stick to the peace talks."

The LJM and the Sudanese government will be signing the ceasefire agreement on two different papers, said our correspondent.

"The first one will be the framework agreement. This will lay out how the process will continue between the LJM and the government of Sudan," he said. 

"The other important thing is that they'll be signing a ceasefire - a ceasefire for three months."

US appeal

Scott Gration, the US envoy to Sudan, has urged all parties to the Darfur conflict to seize the "little window" for a peace agreement before presidential, parliamentary and state elections next month.

"If we can get a jump on a Darfur peace agreement, then we should, because there's going to be a lot of things keeping us from focusing on Darfur," Gration told reporters in Nairobi last week before he travelled to Doha.

"The framework agreement "has to be turned into a more formalised agreement ... If there is going to be a comprehensive and lasting peace in Darfur, all rebel groups need to be involved."

The conflict in Darfur has pitched ethnic African tribesmen against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, claiming the lives of up to 300,000 lives - from the fighting as well as famine and disease - and displacing 2.7 million people, according to the UN.

Sudan, whose president Omar al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over war crimes in Darfur, disputes the toll and says only 10,000 have died.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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