Sudanese president says peace deal may be signed in couple of days


Sudan (AP)

The Sudanese government and southern rebels could sign a final peace agreement within days, the African country's president said Tuesday, but doubt remained over which type of law would be applied to people living in the capital, Khartoum.

"We are expecting (an agreement) very soon ... maybe today, tomorrow (Wednesday) or in the coming two days," President Omar el-Bashir told members of his ruling National Congress Party in a speech, parts of which were broadcast on state-run TV.

Peace negotiations taking place in Kenya between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army have been making significant progress. The parties agreed in September on what to do with their forces during a six year transition period. In January, they also signed an agreement on how to divide wealth in Africa's largest country.

But the talks to end the 21-year civil war stalled Saturday over the application of Islamic law in the nation's capital, Khartoum.

The rebels agreed to allow Muslims to be subject to Sharia -- or Islamic law -- but insisted that it not be applied to non-Muslims. The government has so far insisted that Islamic law apply to all people living in Khartoum.

El-Bashir stressed this point again Tuesday, saying "there will be only one law in the capital, there will never be more than one law in the capital, but we will provide guarantees (for non-Muslims)."

He did not elaborate on how this issue would be resolved with the southern rebels.

Finalizing a peace deal for the war in the south is seen as key to ending a humanitarian crisis created by a separate rebellion in Sudan's western Darfur region where more than 860,000 people have been driven from their homes and thousands killed.

While the fighting is unrelated, a peace agreement with southern rebels would free up diplomatic resources for peace talks to begin in Chad to end the Darfur conflict.

The southern rebellion began in 1983, six years before el-Bashir seized power. Rebels took arms up against the Arab and Muslim-dominated northern government fighting for a greater share of the country's wealth and the rights of largely animist and Christian southerners. The conflict has killed roughly 2 million people, mainly through war-induced famine.