Sudanese civil war peace talks stuck on power sharing, regions: FM

Feb 29 (AFP)

Peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and southern rebels remain stuck on how to share power and decide the future of disputed regions, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said Sunday.

The round of negotiations that began February 18 in Kenya "should continue until March 18 at the least, but we cannot say there is a breakthrough on the oustanding issues," Ismail told reporters during a visit to Egypt.

He said the government's negotiations with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had stumbled on power sharing and the fate of three regions in central Sudan: Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile state.

The three areas are not part of the SPLA stronghold in southern Sudan but the rebel movement is seeking to represent their inhabitants.

The Islamist government in Khartoum and the SPLA, which has been fighting for the rights of animists and Christians in the south, have made giant strides toward ending 20 years of civil war at peace negotiations in Kenya.

The United States, which launched its bid to help end the war two years ago, is urging the two sides to conclude a final agreement as quickly as possible.

Ismail, speaking after talks with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, added that his government had formed a 100-member committee to prepare for a conference of national reconciliation on the western Darfur region.

A rebellion erupted in the impoverished Darfur region a year ago over claims Khartoum had neglected its economic development.

The members of the committee were asked to contact people from the Darfur region who are living abroad in the hope of organizing such a conference in March, he added.

Echoing statements by other Arab officials, the minister rejected "any reforms coming from outside," an allusion to the US initiative for democratic reform in the Middle East that is expected to be launched in June.

"Reform in Arab countries must be internal and cover the issues of women, educational programs and human rights," Ismail said.