Sudan, rebel groups agree on roadmap for peace talks
By Denis Dumo and Khaled Abdelaziz
JUBA/KHARTOUM, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Sudan and a major rebel group agreed on Friday to a roadmap that will allow suspended peace talks to resume, giving new impetus to efforts by the government to end multiple conflicts around the country, the two sides said.
The government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) agreed that the focus of the negotiations would be political issues first, followed by humanitarian concerns and then security arrangements.
Friday's announcement came during peace talks between the government and multiple rebel groups, hosted by neighbouring South Sudan. Negotiations will continue over the weekend.
Sudan's ruling council and rebel groups restarted peace talks on Monday to end years-long conflicts, a prerequisite for the United States to remove Sudan from its list of sponsors of terrorism.
The talks were partly suspended on Wednesday after the SPLM-N, a rebel group in the southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, accused Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Force of occupying new areas and attacking and arresting traders.
SPLM-N spokesman Al-Jack Mahmoud Al-Jack told Reuters that the government had agreed to the group's demands to restart talks.
"We suspended the negotiations due to the violations committed by the government," Jack said. "The government has withdrawn its forces ... and it declared cessation of hostilities plus released the detained people."
The government confirmed negotiations would resume on Saturday. "The government is ready to start discussions tomorrow on the three points agreed upon," said government spokesman Mohamed Eltaishi.
Sudan is being ruled by a transitional government after a coup overthrew longtime dictator Omar al Bashir in April following months of deadly protests.
The new government is anxious to make peace with rebels. Cash-strapped Khartoum is in desperate need of debt relief and financing from lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
But its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism has cut it off from such support. Removal from the list could also potentially open the door for foreign investment.
(Reporting by Denis Dumo in Juba and Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum; writing by Omar Mohammed; editing by Katharine Houreld and Nick Macfie)
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