Signing of Sudan peace deal delayed as negotiations continue

NAIROBI
April 12 (Xinhua)

A peace deal between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which was expected to be signed over the weekend, is delayed as negotiations are still continuing, mediator said on Monday.

Both the Sudanese government and the southern rebel are still discussing the issues of power sharing and the three disputed regions, Kenyan Special Envoy for Peace in the Sudan and Chief Mediator Lazoro Sumbeiywo told Xinhua by telephone form the Kenyan town of Naivasha, where the current round of Sudan peace talks is being held.

Sumbeiywo said that much progress has been made during the talks, but the envoy declined to give time frame for the signing of the peace agreement.

"I have not given any time frame. As far I am concerned the parties are discussing a package of issues which they will have toovercome before signing a framework agreement. Negotiations are still continuing and I can't tell you when they are likely to overcome these outstanding issues of power sharing and the three disputed areas of Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile," Sunbeiywo said.

Last week, during his visit to Kenya, United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Charles Snyder announced that a final peace deal between the Sudanese government and the SPLA could be reached by the end of the week.

However, the SPLA spokesman Yasser Arman told Xinhua on Monday that the issue of Islamic law in the Sudanese capital is the latest issue blocking the signing of the final deal.

"The main point that has stalled the talks is the laws to govern Khartoum. The government insists that everyone must be subjected to Sharia law. We on the other hand are advocating for Sharia law for the Muslims and secular laws for the non-Muslims," Arman said.

Meanwhile, a Sudanese government official who declined to be identified also told Xinhua that "it is true the issue of Sharia Law is the stumbling block but once we finish with it we shall move forward."

The Sudanese civil war started as the SPLA took up arms fighting for self-determination in the southern part of the country in 1983.

The conflict has left some 2 million people dead, mostly through war-induced famine and disease.

The Sudanese government and the SPLA began peace talks in March1994 in Kenya, aimed at ending the longest civil war on the continent, under the auspices of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a seven-member regional group in east Africa, consisting of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, Eritrea, Somalia and the Sudan.

Kenya is holding the current chairmanship of the IGAD ministerial sub-committee on the Sudan.