Obasanjo urges flexibility at Sudanese peace talks

Abuja- Nigeria (PANA) -- Peace talks between the Sudanese government and the two rebel movements in the country's troubled western region of Darfur opened in Abuja Monday, with host Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo urging the parties to keep an open mind and approach the talks without preconditions.
   "Let all stakeholders descend from their entrenched positions and prescribe workable solutions," Obasanjo said at the opening of the talks at the ECOWAS Secretariat in the Nigerian capital.
   The Nigerian leader, who is also the AU Chairman, told the Sudanese parties that the "eyes of the world are on the region and on such forum as the Abuja peace talks.
"   "We cannot afford to fail in restoring peace and security to the (Darfur) region.
Today we stand on the threshold of history.
Let us not shame history.
Let us not shame humanity," he stressed.
   On the reason for hosting the talks, Obasanjo said: "As far as we are concerned in Africa, part of one of our houses is on fire.
It is only a careless and irresponsible neighbour that will have the house of his neighbour on fire and do nothing about it.
   "We are here because we are concerned, we are here because we are brothers, we are here because we care," he added.
   The meeting, which entered a closed session after the opening ceremony is being attended by a 19-member Sudanese government delegation, led by Majzoob Alhkalifa, Minister of Agriculture and a top official of the Sudanese ruling party.
   The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the Darfur rebel groups, is represented by a 25-member team led by Ahmed Togot, a member of the movement's executive committee, while the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) sent a 10-member delegation headed by its chairman, Abdulwahid Alnur.
   Congolese President Sassou Nguesso, as well as AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare, Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and representatives of the Presidents of Chad, Libya, Uganda and Eritrea attended the opening session.
   Also present were the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General, Mohammed Sahnoun, President Obasanjo's special envoy to Darfur, Abdulsalami Abubakar, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amre Moussa, diplomats and representatives of several NGOs.
   President Obasanjo offered to host the talks after a failed previous peace meeting on Darfur last month in Addis Ababa.
   According to the UN, the 19-month-old conflict has displaced more than one million people, some of whom have fled to safety in Chad, while more than 30,000 have been reported killed.
   The Janjaweed Arab militias, which reportedly engage in burning, looting and raping, have been blamed for fuelling the conflict, which has unleashed what the UN called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
   Last month, the UN Security Council in a strong resolution asked the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjaweed and bring human rights violators to book within 30 days or face possible sanctions.
   The government, which denies sponsoring the Janjaweed, has promised to abide by the UN resolution.
   In an apparent reference to the UN resolution, Obasanjo said Monday: "We need to act quickly.
Time is not too much on our side.

23 august 2004 14:51:00

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