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Political Parties, Unions OK Peace Pact in Sudan

From Times Wire Services

Thirty Sudanese political parties and several key trade unions agreed Saturday night to adopt a peace pact to end nearly six years of civil war in south Sudan.

The agreement, announced by a member of Sudan’s supreme council--a five-member joint presidency--was contained in a document that is to serve as a working program for a new, broad-based government that may replace Prime Minister Sadek Mahdi’s current coalition.

The peace pact proposed a cease-fire in the civil war, an end to a state of emergency in force since 1985, and a freeze on new Islamic sharia laws before a constitutional conference to work out a new power-sharing formula between Sudan’s Muslim majority and its religious and ethnic minorities.

The fundamentalist National Islamic Front, a recent member of Mahdi’s coalition government along with his Umma party, boycotted the final round of talks.

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The front advocates a military solution to the civil war. It also supports implementation of sharia laws, with harsh punishments including amputation of hands for theft.

Sudan has been in a political crisis since Feb. 20 when the military gave Mahdi an ultimatum, demanding a broad-based government able to make peace or find the resources to win the civil war.

The military also demanded that the government include moderate parties now dealing with the rebels in the south, whose demands include the suspension of sharia laws.

The rebels, or the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, have been fighting since 1983 to end what they see as domination of the mainly Christian, animist south by the Muslim, Arab north.

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Mahdi responded to the military with an ultimatum of his own, threatening to resign unless he received expressions of support from the officers and the unions.

Mahdi was expected to announce at a news conference today whether he would stay on as prime minister or step down in favor of a candidate from his Umma party, Parliament’s largest single bloc.


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