Negotiations on security continue

11 September (IRIN)

Key peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) continued on Thursday, focusing sharply on a compromise security document put forward by the rebel group, sources at the talks told IRIN.

The document, presented two days ago, proposed the establishment of an integrated army, comprising seven brigades, two of which would be stationed in northern Sudan, two in the south, one in the Nuba mountains, one in Southern Blue Nile and one in Abyei, a source told IRIN.

This represents a shift in the strategy employed by the SPLM, which up until now has held that the government-controlled army and the rebel group should not be integrated during the six-and-a-half-year interim period following the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement.

"We have no breakthroughs yet, but we have no breakdowns," said the source.

State-controlled Sudanese Television reported that Sudanese President Omar Hasan al-Bashir would hold "an emergency meeting" on Thursday evening with leaders of political parties to discuss "the swift developments in the on-going peace process" in Nakuru, Kenya.

Vice President Ali Osman Taha was also supposed to leave the talks two days ago but has stayed on, giving many hope that a deal will emerge soon. He was joined on Wednesday by the Sudanese Minister of Defence, Maj Gen Bakri Hassan Salih, and other army generals.

The pressure is mounting to strike a deal, and prevent the peace process from collapse at the make-or-break talks, say analysts.

The carrot-and-stick effect of aid money which will be available for a peaceful Sudan as well as the Sudan Peace Act - enacted by the US government last year to pressurize both sides into signing an agreement - are playing an important role.

Under the terms of the act, the U.S. State Department submits a six-monthly report to congress - next due on 21 October - giving an assessment of whether the parties are "negotiating in good faith". If the government is found to have "unreasonably interfered" with humanitarian efforts or not engaged in good faith negotiations, a number of sanctions will be invoked against it: the US will seek a UN Security Council resolution to impose an arms embargo on Sudan, vote against and oppose any loans from the IMF or World Bank, downgrade or suspend diplomatic relations, and take "all necessary steps" to deny it access to oil revenues.

The act also authorises US $100 million to be spent each year in 2003, 2004 and 2005 in areas outside of government control, on infrastructure, education, health and agriculture and administration, but additional legislation would be required to make the money available.

The Sudanese government has described the act as "a hostile, biased and religiously motivated bill" because it ignores atrocities committed by the rebels. It has also pointed out the imbalances in the act, in that no sanctions are to be meted out if the SPLM does not negotiate in good faith.