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Sudan Ruling Party, Former Southern Rebels Meet

Representatives of Sudan's ruling party and former southern rebels are meeting this week to discuss implementation of a 2005 peace agreement. As Derek Kilner reports for VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, the former rebels pulled their ministers from a power-sharing national government last month.

The former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement have accused the governing National Congress Party of failing to implement key provisions of a 2005 peace deal known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. On October 11, the former rebels (SPLM) withdrew their ministers from the national government.

Other power-sharing bodies, including the parliament, have not been affected.

During the weekend, Vice President Salva Kiir, of the SPLM, met with President Omar al-Bashir, and they announced an agreement on a path forward to implement the peace deal. This week, a committee of SPLM and National Congress Party officials is meeting to work out the details.

SPLM representative in Kenya, John Andruga Duku, says he is optimistic that the agreement can be brought back on track. But he cautions that the SPLM will need to see action by the National Congress Party.

"We have a problem with our partner the National Congress," he said. "When they are under pressure, they come forward and send signals that things have changed, but when the pressure relents, they go back to square one. The SPLM will not return to the Government of National Unity until there is tangible evidence of the implementation of all that we have raised."

Duku says current discussions between the SPLM and National Congress Party concern implementation of the CPA and not changes to the agreement.

"We are not in the business of renegotiating what we have already agreed," he added. "What we are asking for is the implementation of the CPA according to the spirit in which it was signed. What has been announced as progress or as a breakthrough is nothing but just the affirmation of what we are supposed to be implementing."

The biggest stumbling block is the status of the disputed Abyei region, which lies along the border between north and south and is a major source of oil.

The government established an independent commission to determine the boundaries of the province. But the National Congress Party has rejected the commission's findings, and troops from both the north and south remain deployed.

Monday, President Bashir announced that all northern troops would be removed from the south by the end of the year. The presence of the troops had been another major grievance of the SPLM.

This week President Bashir is traveling to Burundi and South Africa, while Vice President Kiir is on a visit to Washington. The two are expected to meet in Khartoum early next week.

Speaking Tuesday in Cape Town, Mr. Bashir said he is committed to peace in the south of the country and in the western region of Darfur.

The 2005 agreement between the government in the north and the SPLM was touted as a model for a future agreement between the Khartoum government and rebels in the troubled Darfur region.

Darfur peace talks in Libya are currently on hold while international meditators attempt to convince several key rebel groups to attend.