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Sudan's New Parliament to Push for Darfur Peace Deal

Sudan's parliament is meeting for the first time this week since the January peace deal to end the country's 21-year civil war. Many are hopeful that the legislature, which includes 28 percent of southern Sudanese, will push for a swift end to the conflict in Darfur.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir opened the new parliamentary session Wednesday, in a speech expressing determination to restore peace in the western region of Darfur.

Alfred Taban is the publisher of the Khartoum Monitor, Sudan's major English-language paper. He says that even though President al-Bashir and the new parliament have professed a determination to resolve the Darfur crisis, southern Sudanese leaders are more likely to focus their energies on problems in southern Sudan.

"He [the president] is eager to get the problems in Darfur resolved because Darfur is now a stain on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the CPA," said Mr. Taban. "A lot of donors, especially from the United States, say they are not really going to come out with a lot of funds that Sudan needs to rehabilitate the country if not much is done in Darfur. So I think he was alluding to that. As for as the MPs from southern Sudan are concerned, southern Sudan comes first because they want things to get moving there. They have not forgotten about Darfur, but there are putting southern Sudan first."

Sudan's Senior Vice President Salva Kiir vowed last month to seek a peace deal for Darfur. He said the peace accord between the Khartoum government and southern rebels outlining a power and wealth-sharing arrangement should serve as a model for peace in Darfur.

Some 180,000 people have died and two million people were displaced in Darfur in more than two years of fighting between rebels from the region's black-African tribes and Sudanese troops backed by Arab tribal militias.

Sudan's ruling party, the National Congress Party, dominates the parliament with about 52 percent of the seats, while the former rebel group, Sudan People's Liberation Movement, has 28 percent. The remaining parliamentary seats are held by opposition groups.