Africa

Sudan wants Darfur deal by end of 2010

Jem rebels (Archive photo)
Image caption Not all rebel groups are attending the peace talks in Qatar

A peace deal to end the civil war in Sudan's western Darfur region could be achieved by the end of this year, the government's chief negotiator has said.

Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani told the BBC the agreement should then be put to the people of Darfur in a consultation.

But he said the government would rather deal directly with rebel commanders than the rebel leaders living abroad.

There has been an increase in fighting since the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) walked out of talks in May.

The seven-year conflict between various rebel groups and government-backed militias in Sudan's western region is estimated by the UN to have cost the lives of 300,000 people and driven 2.7m people from their homes.

The government puts the death toll at 10,000 and has said the problems in Darfur have been exaggerated for political reasons.

Inclusive?

"Bearing in mind that everything that could be said about Darfur has been said, the job of the mediation now is to reconcile the different positions and to come up with a proposal so that is possible to do before the end of the year," Dr Ghazi told the BBC.

Dr Ghazi, who leads the Sudanese side at new talks currently under way in Qatar, said it did not matter that some of the main Darfur rebel movements were unlikely to participate in the deal.

"We cannot let spoilers hold up the process," he said.

The talks in Qatar mainly involve the the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), an umbrella of several smaller rebel factions.

The Sudan Liberation Army - led by Abdul Wahid who lives in Paris - has consistently refused to enter into talks with the government.

Jem - whose leader Khalil Ibrahim is based in Libya - signed a ceasefire with the government in February, but withdrew from talks after the April elections, accusing the government of bad faith.

Over the weekend, Jem said it was considering rejoining the negotiations and had sent a delegation to Qatar for discussions.

"Above all, the most important thing is the problem of allowing our leadership, our commanders, to go to Darfur and back to the negotiating table," Jem spokesman Eltahir Adam Elfaki told the BBC.

'Ambitious'

But Dr Ghazi has already rejected Jem's request for freedom to travel, saying the government would prefer to do any consultations with commanders directly.

After a deal was agreed, the consultation process would involve a variety of political groups and traditional leaders, he added.

The BBC's Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the timetable for an agreement is very ambitious and the rebel groups are likely to do all in their power to prevent themselves from being side-lined.

The Sudanese government would like any settlement to be put to the African Union and the United Nations for their ratification.

A 22,000-strong joint United Nations and African Union peace force is on the ground in Darfur.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes committed in Darfur - charges he strongly denies.

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