(AFP) – Oct 16, 2007
KHARTOUM (AFP) — Former southern Sudanese rebels met with President Omar al-Beshir on Tuesday for the first time since recalling their ministers from government over Khartoum's failure to implement a north-south peace deal.
At the same time, three rebel groups from Darfur have formed a bloc to pursue a common strategy on talks with Beshir and with other rebels over ending the deadly conflict in that western region.
Riek Mashar, the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement's number two, said he and two more of the group's officials had met Beshir to discuss a letter to him from Salva Kiir, SPLM chief and first vice president.
Kiir is also expected to hold talks with Beshir in the next two days, Mashar told reporters.
"The meeting was cordial, and the two leaders will meet soon to discuss the outstanding issues and resolve the crises between the parties triggered by the non-implementation of the CPA and violation of the spirit and equal partnership between the two parties," he said.
Mashar was referring to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended 21 years of war between the Muslim north and Christian and animist south and that killed at least two million people and displaced millions more.
On Thursday, the SPLM suspended its participation in the central government, accusing Beshir's ruling National Congress Party of failing to implement the CPA.
Beshir "assured the delegation that he will not fail the Sudanese people over the problems to ensure peace in the country," Mashar added.
On Sunday, the SPLM delivered a letter to Khartoum detailing their demands for resolving the crisis.
The exact contents of the letter were unknown, but the SPLM's demands focus on getting Khartoum's troops out of the south, resolving the fate of the central oil-rich province of Abiye and getting Beshir to allow southern ministers to be reshuffled.
The crisis comes amid mounting concern among world powers over the stability of Sudan, already riven by conflict and a deepening humanitarian crisis in the western region of Darfur.
The SPLM pullout raised fears of complicating planned October 27 peace talks between Khartoum and Darfur rebels, who accuse the military and allied militia of increasing attacks after four years of civil war.
Darfur rebel factions that have not signed a peace deal with Khartoum are currently meeting in the southern city of Juba to try to unify their positions ahead of those talks.
Kiir urged them to draw up "common demands and form a single delegation," according to Jar al-Nabi Abdel Kader Yunes, who heads a delegation of commanders that split from a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement headed by Abdel Wahed Nur.
A Darfur peace deal was signed in May 2006 between Khartoum and one of three negotiating rebel factions to end four years of conflict which has killed at least 200,000 people according to the United Nations.
Yunes said they had "formed a common bloc to negotiate with the other groups and with the government."
Yunes, Seddik Abdel Karim and Mohammed Ali Kilai head groups that broke off from the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army originally formed by Minni Minawi and which signed
He said the latest move was a "positive step that could lead to the reunification of the SLM."
Notably absent from the meetings was Nur's SLM faction, which has said it will not attend the Libya talks unless a UN peacekeeping force is deployed first in Darfur.
Also missing were the main Justice and Equality Movement faction led by Khalil Ibrahim and the SLM faction headed by Khamis Abdallah, said Yunes.
The rebels meeting in Juba said the Khartoum military tried to prevent them from reaching the talks, forcing the African Union plane they were flying in on Thursday to make an emergency landing in Darfur or be shot down.
The talks come amid an upsurge in violence in Darfur, where Minnawi's group has threatened to take up arms again.
It said Sudanese forces and their allied Janjaweed militia killed 50 people in an attack earlier this month on a town it controls in Darfur, threatening the fragile peace deal.
The UN subsequently reported clashes between Khartoum forces and Minawi ex-rebels, but the circumstances of the violence were not clear.
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