Sudan peace deal delayed by wrangle over status of Khartoum: mediators

April 13 (AFP)

A final Sudan peace deal is being delayed by a disagreement on whether the capital Khartoum would be under Islamic law during the transitional period after a final accord is signed, officials said on Tuesday.

"They are stalled, on the issue of sharia in the capital, otherwise they could have finished this," an official in the mediation, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

In July 2002, both the Khartoum government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) agreed that areas in the north should be under Islamic law while the south would be free of religious laws during an interim period of six years of self rule after which the south would vote on a referendum.

The government insists on the 2002 deal, but the SPLA argues that despite being in the north, Khartoum is capital for all, the official said.

Last week, mediators announced that Vice President Ali Osman Taha and SPLA leader John Garang had broadly agreed on a formula to share power as well as the administration of three disputed regions.

The regions -- Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile -- largely inhabited by SPLA supporters, were designated to be part of the north by colonial maps.

The United States on Monday warned the two parties that they could face US sanctions if they do not conclude a long-anticipated but much-delayed comprehensive peace deal by April 21 after they failed to sign a framework agreement last weekend.

Previous marathon peace parleys have resulted in deals on at least all the sticking points that stood on the way to end the conflict that has killed at least 1.5 million people and displaced more than four million others since 1983.