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AU Proposes Draft Darfur Deal


Warring parties from Western Sudan's devastated Darfur region and government representatives meeting at the Abuja peace talks are studying a new proposal to end three years of violence. The proposal comes ahead of the April 30 deadline to reach an agreement.

The draft peace agreement drawn up by the African Union provides the framework for a comprehensive deal on all outstanding issues such as power and wealth sharing, as well as security arrangements.

African Union mediation chief, Salim Ahmed Salim, who handed over the document to delegates late Tuesday at the AU sponsored talks in Abuja, described the draft agreement as an acceptable compromise.

"It will be painfully clear to you that neither of you will be fully satisfied with our proposal," he said. "Indeed if you will be, we shall possibly consider this as a dereliction of our responsibilities. No agreement, however cleverly crafted, can fully address the demands of the two opposing parties. In my view, I am submitting to you an agreement that does not fully give you what you had wanted but an agreement that you can all live with."

Both the Sudan government and the two rebel groups operating in Darfur have come under pressure in the past few days to reach a deal to end the war.

About 300,000 people have died from violence and diseases in Darfur since the start of the rebellion three years ago. More than 2.4 million people have been left homeless.

The African Union and the United Nations have set a deadline of April 30 for reaching an agreement. After months of inconclusive negotiations, Mr. Salim says the parties have an opportunity to decide the fate of Darfur.

"No more delaying tactics," he added. "The eyes of the world are on you, the people of Darfur are looking up to you, Africa is encouraging you. Can you as leaders and representatives of the people muster the necessary political courage to end the misery of your people or would you take the option of letting them remain in refugee camps or internally displaced camps? This choice, the choice and responsibility is yours, you who are gathered here, the government and the movements."

The Sudan government and the rebel groups are expected to submit their reactions to the draft agreement by Thursday. Their initial response had been that of a cautious acceptance of the proposal. Ahmed Tugod, is the chief mediator of the Justice and Equality Movement, one of the two rebel factions at the talks.

"As far as this document is concerned, now with the documents in our hands and the time left, it is reasonable time that we can reflect on this document and then we can say what we think," he said.

The U.N. Security Council voted Tuesday to freeze the assets and impose a travel ban on four Sudanese blamed for the bloodshed and rights abuses in Darfur.

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