Sudanese govt urges rebels’ commitment to Darfur peace talks

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ABUJA, Dec 29, 2004 (Xinhua) — The Sudanese government here on Wednesday accused rebels of not being committed to the Darfur peace talks, urging for their top officials’ presence so as to find a quicker solution to the crisis in the troubled western Sudan region.

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Sudan Liberation Army member listens to the radio .

Sudanese Ambassador to Nigeria Abdel Rahim Khailil said in the Nigerian capital Abuja, venue of the African Union-sponsored peace talks, that the rebels’ refusal to present their leaders had made it impossible for mediators to hit far-reaching agreements.

“At the last round in Abuja where the vital political issue was to be discussed, government came ready with six ministers. That shows we were here for business,” Khailil said.

“But the rebels had a different agenda. They delegated very junior officers who could not agree on anything. It is no wonder that these fellows kept frustrating the talks via incessant walkouts,” he added.

According to the ambassador, the Sudanese government expected at least the chairman or secretary of the rebel groups to take part in the Abuja talks.

None came, he said, adding that Justice and Equality Movement ( JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim promised to be here, but there was not even a word from him.

Even Chairman of the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLMA) Abdulwahid Mohammed and its Secretary Minni Arkoi, who used to attend some of the sessions, did not show up for the last round, he added.

“So you can see clearly that the rebels only manage to be here. No particular commitment in resolving the crisis in Darfur,” he said.

The envoy challenged the African Union (AU) to make it mandatory for leaders of the rebel groups to attend the next session slated for January next year as such was the only way for a fruitful discourse.

Khailil, who admitted government’s violations of ceasefire agreements as alleged by the AU, said that such actions were usually to protect the poor and innocent citizens of Darfur.

“They (rebels) block roads, impede commercial activities, rob people and commit all kinds of crimes. No responsible government can fold its hands when things like these are happening,” he stated.

The envoy agreed that time was running out on the talks while the patience of the mediators was being over tasked, but expressed optimism that all sides would broker a lasting deal.

“The positions of all sides on the issues are the same. They share a lot in the area of power sharing. They all agree on a united Sudan. They all agree on need to devolve more powers downward,” he said.

“Besides, whatever we agree to here would be subjected to rigorous screening by the people of Darfur. So we must work in tandem with the interests and expectations of the generality of Sudanese back home,” he added.

Khailil reiterated the Sudanese government’s desire and commitment for a peaceful resolution of the Darfur crisis through dialogue and called for same resolve by the rebels.

The Darfur crisis started two years ago has left at least thousands of people dead and one million people displaced.