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New Report Warns of Threats to Sudan Peace Accord

An independent bipartisan U.S. government commission says problems with the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan threaten chances for peace as well as efforts to end killing in Darfur.

The report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom focuses on significant delays in implementing the agreement, shortcomings it says threaten human rights and religious freedom in Sudan, and chances for ending bloodshed in Darfur.

Commission members traveled to Sudan this past January to assess progress under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement - the CPA - signed last year aimed at ending decades of internal conflict in Sudan.

As described by commission chairman Michael Cromartie, peace between the North and South in Sudan remains fragile and, as shown by continuing violence in Darfur, is inconsistent throughout the country.

"Institutions called for in the CPA have not yet been established, and are now only beginning to function or have yet to prove their worth," said Michael Cromartie. "We found that the sharing of Sudan's oil revenues lacks transparency and may not be implanted fully. The CPA's arrangements for the protection of human rights, including religious freedom are vulnerable to erosion and manipulation because of Sudan's weaknesses in the areas of the rule of law, press freedom and democratic accountability.

He adds that what he calls key levers of power remain in the hands of those who were responsible for massive human rights abuses during the decades-long North-South civil war, and in Darfur.

American leadership, says the commission, is crucial not only to the success of the CPA, but to ensure that millions of refugees and internally displaced people can return to their homes.

Although the North-South accord brought improvements in areas of the South subject to abuse of religious freedoms during the civil war, the commission found that problems remain.

"The government supervises and controls most Muslim religious institutions in order to favor a militant interpretation of Islam, that promotes intolerance and undermines human rights of both Muslims and non-Muslims, including women," said Bishop Ramirez.

Among some 36 recommendations, the commission urges appointment of a high-level U.S. coordinator to ensure that funds are being used effectively to help refugees, as well as assigning a U.S. embassy official to oversee human rights and other aspects of the peace accord.

Appearing with commission members, Colin Thomas-Jensen, of the International Crisis Group, says the National Congress Party in Khartoum has deliberately and systematically undermined the peace agreement and tried to weaken the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), its partner in the Government of National Unity.

"By stripping functions away from SPLM-led ministries," said Colin Thomas-Jensen. "It's delaying progress in implementation of the agreement by slowing the formation of critical committees and mechanisms that were built into the agreement precisely to make sure implementation went smoothly and to guarantee genuine political reform in the country."

The Commission on International Religious Freedom says failure to find a solution to the situation in Darfur threatens chances for peace countrywide.

President Bush Wednesday said he is "deeply worried" about the situation in Darfur, and reiterated his position that a U.N. force with help from NATO is needed.

"To send a clear signal to parties involved that the West is determined to help effect a settlement, that this is serious business," he said. "We're [not] just playing a diplomatic holding game, but that when we say genocide, we mean that the genocide needs to be stopped."

The president spoke during an appearance at Freedom House in Washington, after talks with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo that included discussion of Darfur, Liberia and other issues.