Sudan vice president, rebel chief to push for peace through Christmas Day

Dec 24 (AFP)

Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Taha and rebel chief John Garang will continue peace talks through Christmas to try to clinch a final deal before year-end as they promised the UN Security Council, officials said on Friday.

"No Christmas break for them, they have agreed to continue with (peace) talks," a mediation official told AFP from the talks' venue in the northwest Kenyan town of Naivasha.

The official hinted that a peace deal could be reached on December 31, the day when a cessation of hostilities agreement is due to expire.

The talks were earlier planned to adjourn for Christmas later on Friday and resume on Monday.

Last month, Khartoum and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) pledged in writing to the UN Security Council to sign a deal to end 21 years of conflict in southern Sudan by year-end.

SPLM/A spokesman Yasser Arman told AFP: "Both delegations decided not to go for Christmas, but stay focussed here on bringing peace for Sudanese people, the region and the world at large."

More than two years of intense negotiations have already delivered agreements on key issues such as power- and wealth-sharing, but technical details still have to be ironed out before a final deal is clinched.

"For sure, we are going to beat the deadline," said Arman.

War erupted in southern Sudan in 1983 as a freedom struggle by the mainly Christian and animist south against successive Islamic governments in Khartoum. Since then, the conflict conflict has killed at least 1.5 million people and displaced four million others.