Top rebel leader says more time needed for Sudan peace deal…

Khartoum (AFP) – A senior Sudanese rebel leader Monday called for a three-month extension to finalise a peace deal with the Khartoum government, as talks between the two sides are to resume next week.

Yasir Arman, deputy leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), also called on Washington to remove Sudan from its blacklist of “state sponsors of terrorism”.

Peace talks opened in October in Juba between Khartoum’s new transitional government and rebels who fought now-ousted president Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

A second round of talks is set to begin next Tuesday in the South Sudanese capital, and a peace deal had been expected to be struck a few days later on December 14.

But Arman, who is a senior leader in the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance, said more time was needed.

“We call for an extension of the Juba Declaration by three months until March 8,” he told reporters in Khartoum on Monday.

“We hope that the December 10 round will be the last and peace will be achieved,” he added, without giving a specific reason for the extra time needed to reach that goal.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in fighting between rebel groups and Sudanese security forces in the three conflict zones during Bashir’s rule.

Arman said the first round of talks held in Juba had accomplished what several negotiations with Bashir’s regime had not achieved in eight years.

“We do not want our country to collapse. The situation in the country is fragile and needs joint action from all sides,” he said.

  • ‘We support peace’ –

The transitional authorities, tasked with leading the way to civilian rule after Bashir’s ouster in April, have made ending wars in these regions their top priority.

“We support peace … We are looking for a national project and a strategic exit for armed rebel movements,” Arman said.

He also urged Washington to drop Sudan from its blacklist.

“After the fall of the National Congress Party, Sudan is no longer a state that sponsors terrorism,” Arman said, referring to Bashir’s party.

Washington had added Sudan to its blacklist in 1993 for Khartoum’s alleged support to Islamist militant groups.

Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 to 1996.

Washington has made reaching peace in Sudan’s war zones a key condition for removing the country from the blacklist.

Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is currently in the United States where he is expected to hold talks on this issue.

Washington had also imposed a trade embargo on Sudan in 1997, which it lifted in October 2017.

Sudanese officials say the terrorism tag still keeps foreign investors away from the northeast African country, in turn delaying its economic recovery.

It was an acute economic crisis that triggered nationwide protests against Bashir in December 2018, and finally led to his overthrow on April 10.

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