Khartoum urges southern rebels to aim for peace deal by year-end

Dec 5 (AFP)

The Sudanese government on Sunday urged the main southern rebel group to try and sign a final peace deal by the end of the year, on the eve of the last session of high-level talks in Kenya.

"We are hoping this is the last round of talks (and) we hope that we will complete the peace deal," government chief negotiator Nadie Ali Nadie told journalists, shortly after Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha arrived in Nairobi for the negotiations.

Taha and Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) leader John Garang will go into head-to-head negotiations on Monday, a week after low-level delegates started discussing details of a permanent ceasefire and technical security measures in the Kenyan northwestern town of Naivasha.

"We are enthusiatic and we feel that our brothers on the other side (SPLM/A) will be keen to wrap up this whole thing and complete a peace deal," said Nadie, who is also Sudan's federal relations minister.

The UN Security Council last month held a special session in Nairobi and extracted a written promise from the Sudan government and SPLM/A rebels to sign the deal ending 21 years of conflict in southern Sudan by December 31.

"We hope to beat the deadline... Issues that are remaining are not difficult," he added.

More than two years of intense negotiations have already delivered agreements on key issues such as sharing of power and wealth, leaving technical details on the negotiation table, crucial to reaching a final peace deal to halt Africa's longest and bloodiest conflict.

At least 1.5 million people have been killed and over four million others displaced by the war, which erupted in 1983 when the mainly Christian and animist south took up arms to end domination by the Arabised, Muslim north.