The Sudanese government accepted an African Union (AU)-drafted Darfur peace deal yesterday and said any outstanding disagreements on issues such as security and power-sharing could be negotiated later. But Darfur rebel groups threatened yesterday to withdraw their support for the deal.
The AU had set yesterday as a deadline for the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels to wrap up negotiations that have dragged on for two years while the conflict in the vast western region of Sudan has escalated.
After all-night discussions at a no-frills hotel on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital Abuja, the government announced it had accepted the AU's terms.
"The government ... wishes to confirm its decision to formally accept this document and its readiness to sign it," said a statement from Majzoub al-Khalifa, head of the government's negotiating team at peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.
"The government wishes to confirm its full commitment to implement the agreement in good faith. The delegation is also fully convinced that any difficulties that might come up in the implementation stages can be resolved by consensus between all the parties," the statement said.
The statement was the latest in a series of diplomatic moves to try to convince rebels to drop some of their demands and rely on conflict resolution mechanisms embedded in the agreement.
Rebel groups have yet to respond officially to the 85-page document, but several of their leaders have complained that it does not meet their key demands.
The groups -- part of a conflict which has killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.4 million in three years of fighting -- raised their concerns at the 11th hour yesterday.
"I don't think we are going to accept the AU proposal. We have not got enough time to go through the document," said Saisaledin Haroun, a spokesman for the main faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM).
He said the SLM had received the Arabic version of the draft accord only on Saturday.
"We are not satisfied with the AU document," Haroun added, adding that the SLM would coordinate with another rebel outfit, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), to forge a "common position" by the end of the day.
He said key requirements for peace in the troubled western province were lacking in the AU proposal, including security arrangements such as the disarming of the government-backed Janjaweed and other militias.
Other "reservations" raised by the rebels were that the AU document did not consider giving the vice presidential political slot to the Darfur region, or adequately resolve other power-sharing and wealth-distribution issues.
"The document falls short of the expectations of our people in Darfur. We cannot be able to defend it before them. Whatever we cannot defend, we do not want to be part of it," JEM chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod said.
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