Sudan government says ceasefire monitors give advantage to rebels

Jan 19, 2002 (AFP)

A US proposal to introduce international monitors to Sudan to guard against aerial bombardment of civilians throughout the strife-torn country would give an advantage to anti-government rebels, Sudan's government said Saturday.

The monitors "will place the (government) armed forces alone in shackles because they would be a regular force, while the rebel movement would enjoy unshackled freedom of action because it is an irregular army," said a statement from Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir's peace advisory board.

"Contrary to US belief, (the government) does not adopt a policy of deliberate bombardment of civilians," it added.

A halt to bombing civilian targets is one of four proposals made by US special envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, as part of a US initiative towards ending the country's 18-year-old civil war.

Khartoum had "shown flexibility" by agreeing to three out of Danforth's proposals -- a ceasefire in the central Sudanese Nuba Mountains, "zones of tranquility" for relief work and an end to abduction and slavery practices, the statement said.

The governement said it had made a counter-proposal to stop bombing for four weeks "save in case of self defense," provided that the issues of the "neutrality and transparency" of humanitarian operations in Sudan and the "verification and prevention" of the exploitation of wartime civilian populations were addressed.

The United States "did not accept the proposal advanced by the government of Sudan," the statement said.

Representatives of the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, composed mainly of Christians and animists from the south of the country, signed in Switzerland Saturday a six-month ceasefire agreement for the Nuba mountains region.