Southerners to hand demands to Sudan president

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KHARTOUM, Oct 14 (Reuters) Former south Sudanese rebels said they would hand a list of demands to Sudan's president 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 United Nations 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.

Yasir Arman, a SPLM deputy secretary-general, told Reuters the list of demands would be handed over to President Bashir at around noon local time 1430 ist by vice president of the government of semi-autonomous southern Sudan, Riek Machar.

FIRST CONTACT ''This will be the first official contact since the beginning of the crisis,'' said Arman. ''The SPLM is seeking solutions. We are looking for a constitutional and equal partnership.'' He said Machar would hand over 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.

It shared wealth and paved the way for elections by 2009 and a southern referendum on secession in 2011.

The decision by the SPLM, the political wing of the southern rebel movement which fought the Khartoum government for more than 20 years, is the culmination of months of disagreement between the two main partners in the national government.

Both sides have accused the other of violating the terms of the deal. Key areas of disagreement have included the withdrawal of troops from disputed areas, the demarcation of their mutual border and the administration of oil fields.


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