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Questions Remain After Darfur Peace Accord

Sudan is not out of the woods yet, following a widely hailed peace agreement signed between the Sudan government and Darfur rebels. Critics are skeptical the deal will hold, because two rebel factions have refused to sign on. And questions remain about whether the Sudan government will allow a U.N. peacekeeping force to take over from an African Union force in the region.

The United Nations has been pressing for a U.N. force to augment the African Union force in Darfur. The Sudanese government initially rejected calls for U.N. peacekeepers there, but recently has indicated it would support such a force once a peace agreement is in place.

But Sudan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jamal Ibrahim, says Sudan will not allow U.N. troops to be imposed upon Sudan. He told VOA this must be a decision of the Sudanese government.

"No one has the right to speak about sending any forces into Darfur, or replace the AU forces already in Darfur," he says.

Ibrahim says Sudan will asses the situation in Darfur to determine the best course of action.

The peace accord, signed in Abuja, Nigeria, is facing criticism from those who say the deal is not all inclusive. While the largest faction of Darfur's main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, or SLA, signed onto the peace deal, a smaller faction of the SLA along with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement refused.

Izzedin Abdul is a supporter of SLA faction leader Abdelwahid Mohamed Nur, who did not sign the agreement.

Abdul says fierce debates are raging among the rebels regarding the signature of rival leader Minni Arcu Minnawi.

"The people of Darfur, all people of Darfur do not want this shaky kind of peace agreement," Abdul says says. "Twenty-four hours before Minnawi signed the peace agreement, his supporters sent me an e-mail telling me this agreement will not be useful, even for toilet paper. And, the next day, we have seen the guy signing the peace agreement alone."

Abdul says he believes the rebels signed the agreement only under intense pressure from the international community.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has appealed to the two holdout rebel groups to sign the agreement. The United States has called the deal an important step.

Implementing the accord will not be easy. The deal included provisions to disarm government-backed militias, known as Janjaweed, who are responsible for murder, rape and looting in the region.

Saad Ali Babikir is a director with the largest Sudanese aid organization working in Darfur, the Sudan Social Development Organization. He says disarming the Janjaweed will be nearly impossible, because the term now refers to anyone who engages in criminal acts in Darfur.

"The Janjaweed, who are in the minds of the rebels are different from the Janjaweed who are in the minds of the government, are different from the Janjaweed who are in the minds of other parties," Babikir says. "So, this is a very complicated matter."

Darfur has descended into anarchy in recent months. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbor told reporters in Khartoum after visiting the region last week that the situation for refugees there is now worse than ever. U.N. relief coordinator Jan Egeland is now on a visit to assess the situation.

The three-year conflict began when rebels rose up against the Khartoum government, complaining that the region remained undeveloped because of economic and political marginalization. Sudan is charged with arming militias to crush the rebellion. Tens-of-thousands have died and some two- million more have been displaced in what the United States calls genocide.