AU denies Sudan talks reported deadlock

Abuja- Nigeria (PANA) -- African Union (AU) mediators of the Sudan peace talks in Abuja, have denied media reports that negotiations had stalled over disagreement by the parties on the issue of security.
   "How can that be, when we are just concluding the draft agreement on the security issues?" AU spokesman Assane Ba told PANA in the Nigerian capital Tuesday, the 16th day of the talks between the Khartoum government and the two rebel movements locked in the 18-month fighting in Sudan's Western region of Darfur.
   "Our first draft was considered yesterday (Monday) by both sides, they made some amendments which is what we are harmonising now," Ba said.
   "Both sides have not met face-to-face to consider the security proposal.
When we met yesterday (Monday), both sides merely spoke generally on the document and agreed it was a good document to commence discussion, but the government side suggested the mediators meet with the groups separately which was what we did," he added.
   Since the talks opened, the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have reached agreement on the humanitarian issues, the first item on the four-point agenda.
   But the parties have postponed the signing of the necessary protocol until the agreement on the security issue.
Political, economic and social issues are also on the talks agenda.
   However, negotiations on security have dragged for some time, creating the impression that the talks had run into a hitch.
   Ba insists: "There is nothing like deadlock, these talks have made significant progress and we intend to build on that.
We already have an agreement on the humanitarian issues and we are now on the security (item).
"   For his part, rebel spokesman Ahmed Togodt said: "I can't say that the talks are about to collapse, but I am not optimistic.
We will see how it goes.
The points of differences are getting bigger and bigger.
" He said humanitarian/security arrangement being proposed, was supposed to be linked to the humanitarian/security arrangement for civilians to return home.
   "It is not a comprehensive security settlement, but the proposal here looks like a comprehensive security settlement which is supposed to be after the political negotiations," Togodt added.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources said the second draft on security is expected to be presented to both sides later Tuesday for consideration and approval.
   The UN said fighting in Darfur had killed some 50,000 and displaced more than one million, with another 80,000 refugees fleeing to safety in neighbouring Chad.
   Most of the atrocities committed in what has been described as the world's worst humanitarian disaster have been blamed on the Janjaweed Arab militias, allegedly backed by the Khartoum government.
   But the government has denied the charge, saying it had started arresting and sentencing hundreds of the "outlaws" in Darfur.

07 september 2004 16:57:00

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