From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Feb 16 2009 - 15:08:19 EST
Sudan, Darfur to exchange prisoners
February 16 2009 at 08:29PM
Doha - Sudanese government officials and the Movement for Justice and
Equality (JEM), the most active rebel group in the troubled Darfur region,
said in Doha on Monday they have agreed on a prisoner exchange.
"The two sides have committed themselves in principle to an exchange of
prisoners, to be freed in successive groups between now and the launch of
talks on a framework agreement on peace in Darfur," JEM delegation member
Tahar el-Fakih said, according to Qatar's QNA news agency.
Amin Hassan Omar, a member of the Sudanese government delegation, was quoted
by QNA as confirming that "on the principle... there is a commitment to
release prisoners and detainees for events linked to the Darfur conflict.
The two delegations have been meeting in the Qatari capital since last
Tuesday with a view to paving the way for substantive peace negotiations
between Khartoum and the rebel group.
"The two sides have been asked to supply mediators" with proposals for a
common approach on the question of prisoners and " to expect in return a
definitive formula from the negotiators," Omar said.
The development followed a long meeting on Monday between the heads of the
two delegations, Khalil Ibrahim, leader of JEM, and Nafie Ali Nafie, an aide
to Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir.
The meeting was attended by Ahmed Ben Abdallah al-Mahmud, Qatari minister of
state for foreign affairs, and Djibril Bassole, mediator for the United
Nations and African Union taskforce in Darfur.
The most heavily armed of the Darfur rebel groups, JEM boycotted a largely
abortive peace deal signed by one other faction in 2006. Last May, it
launched an unprecedented assault on the Sudanese capital.
Mediators have stressed that the Doha talks are preliminary and intended to
pave the way for a broader peace conference on Darfur.
According to the United Nations, 300 000 people have died and more than 2.2
million have fled their homes since rebels in the western region rose up
against the Khartoum government in February 2003.
Sudan puts the death toll at only 10 000.
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