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Sudan's president says ready for ceasefire talks

Sudan's president says ready for ceasefire talks

Sudan's president said he accepts a U.N. package to help end escalating violence in Darfur and is ready for urgent discussions on a ceasefire, according to a letter circulated.
President Omar al-Bashir said in the letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Sudan is ready "to start immediately" to implement two recent agreements that endorsed the three-step U.N. plan to beef up the beleaguered 7,000-strong African Union force on the ground in the vast conflict-wracked western region.
Council diplomats said Tuesday the letter sounded promising, but cautioned that al-Bashir remains opposed to any large-scale U.N. deployment and has back-tracked on agreements regarding Darfur in the past. The letter also leaves the size and command of a hybrid African Union-United Nations force that would be deployed as the third step unresolved.
Al-Bashir's letter was a response to several phone calls with Annan and a letter from the secretary-general delivered by a personal envoy, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah. He was expected to brief the council yesterday afternoon at a meeting which Annan will also attend, U.N. officials said.
Al-Bashir rejected a Security Council resolution adopted in August that called for more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace the overwhelmed AU force in Darfur, and had opposed deployment of U.N. troops in a hybrid force. He claims a U.N. force would compromise Sudan's sovereignty and try to recolonize the country.
In the letter to Annan, al-Bashir dropped his opposition to the hybrid force.
He said the conclusions of a Nov. 16 meeting of key Sudanese and international diplomats in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the Nov. 30 summit of the African Union's Peace and Security Council in Abuja, Nigeria, which endorsed the three-step U.N. plan, "constitute a viable framework for peaceful settlement to the conflict in Darfur."
Al-Bashir said Sudan agrees that implementation of the first two phases of the U.N. support package for Darfur should start "as scheduled."
The first phase would add 105 military officers, 33 U.N. police, 48 international staffers, 36 armored personnel carriers, night-vision goggles, and Global Positioning equipment to the African Union force, according to a U.N. report last month.
A second, larger support package would include the deployment of several hundred U.N. military, police and civilian personnel to the African Union mission along with substantial aviation and logistical assets.
"The government will render all required assistance to facilitate the successful completion of these phases," al-Bashir said.
Under the heading "Finalization of Plans for the Hybrid Operation," al-Bashir said the size of the AU-U.N. force should be determined by both organizations as stipulated in the Abuja communique, "taking into account all relevant factors and the situation on the ground as well as the requirements for it to effectively discharge its mandate."
Annan said in his letter that the Sudanese leader's support was essential if the United Nations is to fund and strengthen the African Union force. He also said a cease-fire in Darfur is "imperative" because of the significant increase in violence in the war-torn region over the last few weeks, including an upsurge in attacks on civilians by militias.
To achieve a cease-fire, Annan said, efforts to get all rebel groups and militias to join the Darfur Peace Agreement, which the government and one rebel group signed on May 5, must be immediately reactivated.


Updated : 2021-04-20 20:46 GMT+08:00