Former rebels (SPLM) open to talks with Khartoum

Oct 11, 2007 (AFP)

Former southern rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement said Thursday they were open to talks with Khartoum, hours after suspending participation in the national government.

"We are ready to sit with the National Congress Party to discuss the problems," Yasser Arman, joint secretary general of the SPLM told reporters, referring to President Omar al-Beshir's northern party, which dominates the national government.

"We are knocking at the door of the NCP and we hope to have an answer and to work together for a real partnership," he said.

Following the SPLM announcement to recall its ministers, the United Nations Mission in Sudan said that after contact with both parties it was informed that "high level discussions will be taking place shortly between the two partners."

Arman insisted that the move to withdraw the party's 19 ministers and deputy ministers from the government was not aimed at hindering October 27 peace talks in Libya to end violence in Darfur.

The move comes amid an escalation of the conflict in Darfur, the western region where rebels have taken up arms complaining of abuse and marginalisation by Khartoum.

Arman listed several reasons for his party's decision to quit, including the promised withdrawal of northern troops from the south and the fate of the disputed oil-rich region of Abiye.

He cited the government's refusal to meet SPLM chief Silva Kiir's requests to reshuffle his southern ministers in government.

Arman also accused the northern partners of "many human rights violations", citing arbitrary detentions and searches of SPLM members.

The SPLM and its armed wing signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Khartoum in 2005, ending 21 years of war between north and south that killed at least two million people and displaced millions more.

Arman said the decision to quit government was a way to "sound the alarm" over delays in implementation of the peace deal, adding that "there is no alternative to the CPA but the CPA."


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