Sudanese President Nixes Negotiating on Islamic Form of Government at Peace Talks
Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir has announced that achievement of peace would not be at the expense of his "salvation" government, its constants and its values, including Islamic Sharia (law), reported AFP, quoting the official SUNA news agency.
President Bashir said at a public rally in Wad Medani on Saturday that his government "is keen on reaching peace, reconciliation, development and building the great Sudanese state."
However, he added: "The current good omens of peace do not mean a revocation by [the government] from the constants and values of the Sudanese nation."
He described as an illusion the notion that peace implied the dismantling of his government.
He said his government welcomed peace "without separating religion from the state and partitioning the country in exchange for peace."
Meanwhile, a Libyan official announced Saturday that an Egyptian-Libyan brokered conference to help end Sudan's 18-year civil war would be held "in the coming days."
Egypt and Libya "will kick off as of today (Saturday)" talks with the Sudanese parties to set a date for the conference," said the head of Libya's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, Suleiman Al Shahumi, after meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher in Cairo.
The conference "will be held in the coming days,” he said, without specifying where it would take place.
"We will engage in contacts with the Sudanese government, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA, an umbrella grouping for the southern rebels and northern opposition), as well as with the other opposition parties in order to iron out differences over the conference's agenda,” he added.
The joint peace initiative calls for a transitional government in Sudan as well as democracy, unity between the warring north and south, and a conference for reconciliation to implement these points.
But the NDA wants to include the principles of the separation of state and religion, as well as the right for self-determination of the south.
John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army, the rebel force in the mainly animist and Christian south, has been fighting successive Arab and Muslim governments in Khartoum since 1983.
Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi has just wrapped up a tour of three of Sudan's neighboring countries -- Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda -- to discuss the peace plan.
After meeting Garang in Kampala, he announced his intention to create a fund for the rehabilitation of southern Sudan.
In a related development, US aid chief Andrew Natsios sounded a warning on Saturday that parts of Sudan could soon face a crop failure comparable to its catastrophic drought of the 1980s in which a quarter of a million people perished, reported Reuters.
Natsios, speaking after the first visit by a senior US official to Sudan in 12 years, said failed rains threatened famine in parts of the north, while government attacks on villages were creating hunger in the south.
"If the crop fails this year, and there is no food next year, then we will face something like the great Sahelian drought," Natsios told reporters in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
He was referring to a drought in 1984-1985 in which a quarter of a million people died in Sudan's worst famine in more than two decades – Albawaba.com
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