Al-Bashir says no return to war

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Tuesday he was committed to the north-south peace deal that ended Africa’s longest civil war and there would be no return to hostilities after a crisis threatened the pact.

“I would like to assure you there will be no return to war whatsoever,” he said at a state banquet with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

“We are committed to the full implementation of the agreement in letter and spirit ... and work together in genuine partnership for resolving the many issues and for attaining unity of the Sudan,” said al-Bashir.

The 2005 agreement between Khartoum and rebels largely based in the southern part of the country ended the 20-year civil war, which claimed about two million lives.

But members of the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM, pulled out of the northern government last month, saying Khartoum had not implemented key parts of the agreement.

At the United Nations, SPLM leader Salva Kiir, who is also Sudan’s first Vice-President, echoed Bashir’s comments.

“I was the first to say that we are not going back to war again,” Kiir said after talks on Tuesday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “And so it is my view that we are not going back to war in Sudan.”

The two sides met on Tuesday to seek a final deal to end the political crisis.
One issue cited was the presence of government soldiers in southern oil fields.

On Monday, Al-Bashir said in Burundi that northern government troops remaining in the semi-autonomous south would quit the region before the end of the year.

SA pledge

Sudan is all too familiar with devastating conflicts.

About 200 000 people have died since rebels took up arms in Darfur in 2003 accusing the central government in Khartoum of neglect. Khartoum says its critics exaggerate the crisis.

Mbeki said he would strengthen his country’s commitment to a UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur “to add to the military and police contingents we have sent to Darfur as part of Amis [African Union Mission in Sudan].”

While much of the violence has been blamed on the Janjaweed, a predominantly Arab militia allied to the Sudanese government, Darfur faces new challenges as a result of tribal battles and splintering among the rebel groups.

After lengthy negotiations Khartoum agreed to allow the deployment of 26 000 United Nations and African Union troops to Darfur early next year to try to stem violence which AU troops alone have been unable to quell.

But deployment of the hybrid force has been hampered by a dispute over its composition. Bashir said on Tuesday international meddling in Sudan’s problems would backfire.

“We have learned that direct negotiations between the parties is the best way to reach solutions,” he said.

Repeated efforts to end the fighting have so far failed.

A 2006 peace agreement signed in Abuja, Nigeria by only one rebel faction triggered more violence as rebels split into more than a dozen groups. Talks hosted by Libya on October 27 ended quickly after three main rebel factions refused to take part.

Bashir called on all Darfur rebel groups to participate.

“We are looking forward as well to the success of Darfur peace negotiations taking place in Libya by concluding an agreement with all the fighting factions there, based on justice and fair division of power and wealth,” he said.

Mbeki, who has troops involved in African peacekeeping missions, said the Abuja agreement should be the framework for a new round of talks.

“The international community should take firm action against anybody who wilfully absent themselves from these negotiations,” he said at the banquet. - Reuters

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