Sudan peace deal to be signed next week: negotiator

KHARTOUM
Dec 21 (AFP)

The last obstacles to a peace deal between Khartoum and southern rebels will be overcome this week and a settlement signed before December 31, a government negotiator said Tuesday in a Sudanese daily.

The two sides "have settled all outstanding issues and achieved remarkable progress on the power-sharing issues, the remaining points of which will be settled in the next 48 hours," Amin Hassan Omar told Al-Anbaa newspaper.

In an interview from the Kenyan town of Naivasha where the talks are being held, he said the parties had agreed on five of six protocols in the draft accord and were clearing the final details of the sixth on power-sharing.

Omar said the negotiators would have a Christmas break from Friday to Sunday before returning to finish drafting and translating into Arabic the final peace agreement to be ready for signing before December 31.

Al-Anbaa quoted other sources in Naivasha as saying that west and south Kordofan states, which are straddled by the Nuba Mountains, would be merged into one state named South Kordofan with Kadugle as its capital.

Also reporting from Naivasha, the independent Al-Rai Al-Aam daily said the negotiators agreed Monday that a proposed central parliament be made up of 450 members.

Kenyan mediators were also confident Monday that John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the government -- represented by Vice President Ali Osman Taha -- would clinch a deal by the end of the year.

Last month, both sides pledged to the United Nations that they would reach a deal ending the 21-year-old civil war -- the longest-running conflict in Africa -- by year's end.

At least 1.5 million people have been killed and over four million others displaced by the war, which erupted in 1983 when the mainly Christian and animist south took up arms to end domination by the Arabised Muslim north.