Sudan, Rebels expected to sign agreement

25 May (AP)

The Sudanese government has reached an agreement with rebels on issues that have stalled talks to end the 21-year-old war, clearing the way for a comprehensive peace deal, officials said Tuesday.

The officials, who refused to be identified, said the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army were still discussing final details, but a signing ceremony was planned for Wednesday.

The signing ceremony will be held at the Kenyan town of Naivasha, where the talks are taking place, said officials with the Kenyan foreign ministry and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional body that is mediating the talks.

More than two million people have perished, mainly through war-induced famine, since rebels from the mainly animist and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north in 1983.

The latest peace process to end the conflict began in July 2002 and the two sides have already reached agreements on how to share wealth in Africa's largest country and what to do with their forces during a six-year transition period.

But the talks have been stalled in recent months on how power should be shared in a transitional administration, whether Khartoum, the capital, should be governed under Islamic law and how three disputed areas in central Sudan should be administered during the six-year interim period.

A Western diplomat familiar with the talks said the warring parties were expected sign agreements on all the outstanding issues on Wednesday. But the two sides have yet to reach an agreement on a comprehensive cease-fire.

The talks in Naivasha, 60 miles west of Nairobi, do not involve insurgents fighting a 15-month rebellion in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Fighting in Darfur has forced more than 1 million people from their homes in what aid workers have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.