"Elders" visit south Sudan to support peace

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JUBA, Sudan, Oct 2 (Reuters) South Sudan President Salva Kiir today urged a group of elder statesmen to pressure the northern government to implement key parts of a north-south peace deal which ended Africa's longest civil war.

Neglecting the deal would discourage insurgents in Sudan's western Darfur region from engaging in sincere talks with Khartoum in negotiations due to start on October 27 in Libya, southern officials said.

The ''elders'' including anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter, veteran peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, and women and children's rights activist Graca Machel travelled to southern Sudan to hear what was stalling the peace process since the deal signed in January 2005.

''Our partners in peace do not have a will to implement the CPA (north-south deal),'' Kiir told the delegation in a frank two-hour meeting.

''We consider this a threat to its very survival,'' he said.

There was no immediate comment from the government in Khartoum but the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has previously denied allegations that it is stalling on the deal and said implementation is going well.

The north-south civil war claimed 2 million lives and drove more than 4 million from their homes.

Kiir's government said there was a stalemate over key issues of demarcating the border between the north and south and the oil-rich Abyei region, transparency in distributing oil wealth and preparing for Sudan's first democratic elections in more than two decades.

Presidential advisor and widow of the leader of the southern rebellion, Rebecca Garang, said pressure and focus was needed.

''There is a stalemate in the implementation of these issues,'' she said. ''The international community who witnessed the deal should not have sat back without focusing on the CPA.'' ''The international community should put pressure on the National Congress Party -the problem is not us the problem is the NCP.'' The ''elders'' laid a wreath at her husband John Garang's grave and Tutu said a prayer.

Garang warned failure to implement the CPA would mean failure in talks to end Darfur's violence.

''The international community has shifted to Darfur leaving the CPA but the CPA and Darfur are one and the same. If the CPA is being implemented in the south then the people of Darfur will have the incentive to go into a deal with the NCP,'' she said.

The ''elders'' left Juba for Darfur where they will meet community leaders, war victims and Sudanese officials.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said meanwhile that tens of thousands of people are stranded in camps because the funds to pay for their repatriation to the south had dried up.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis said in Geneva the agency had only received 45 million dollars of the 56 million dollars it needed to help 102,000 Sudanese refugees and 25,000 internally displaced people return home this year.

There are still 260,000 registered Sudanese refugees in exile. Most live in UNHCR camps in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

REUTERS ARB KP2003

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