Southerners hand demands to Sudan government

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KHARTOUM, Oct 14 (Reuters) Former south Sudanese rebels delivered a list of demands to Sudan's presidential palace today to try to resolve a crisis that saw them withdraw their ministers from the country's coalition government.

An official from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) told Reuters it was ready to return to power-sharing as soon as President Omar Hassan al-Bashir agreed to the measures, including a reshuffle of main ministerial posts.

The SPLM withdrew its ministers from the national coalition government on Thursday, saying it had failed to follow through on a peace deal signed in 2005.

The withdrawal sparked a wave of international concern, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joining the US State Department in urging both sides to keep the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan's government and the SPLM alive.

Commentators have said a collapse of the peace process would have a devastating impact on security across Sudan, including its war-torn western Darfur region.

A three-man SPLM delegation, led by South Sudanese vice president Riek Machar, handed the demands to Sudan's Minister of Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh soon after midday local time (1430 hrs IST).

FACE-TO-FACE They told Reuters they were still waiting for a face-to-face meeting with President Bashir. ''We have done our part, said Yasir Arman, a SPLM deputy secretary-general. ''Now it is up to them to respond.'' Arman said the handover was the first official contact between SPLM and its former political partners since the crisis started. ''The SPLM is seeking solutions. We are looking for a constitutional and equal partnership,'' he added.

He said the demands were contained in a letter from SPLM leader and Sudan Vice President Salva Kiir, setting out the SPLM's concerns about the roll out of the peace process. The crisis was ''triggered'' by Bashir's rejection of SPLM plans to reshuffle posts in the coalition government, Arman added.

''We are asking the president to give clear indications and a road map for the implementation of the articles of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,'' said Arman, declining to go into greater detail about the specific measures required.

''If president Bashir agrees, then the issue will be resolved,'' added Arman. But he said the SPLM would withdraw ministers again if it found the government's compliance wanting in the future. ''This crisis can be reproduced at any time.'' He refused to comment on local media reports that the main sticking point over the reshuffle had been a decision by the SPLM to withdraw former southern rebel leader Lam Akol as the country's foreign minister.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended Africa's longest civil war and created a coalition government in Khartoum, with the SPLM taking just over a quarter of the posts.

REUTERS PD BST1720

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