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February 2013 - Posts

Kiir not interested in “infinite” post-secession talks with Sudan

February 28, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, said he sees no rationality in engaging in infinite talks with the government of neighbouring Sudan from which his country seceded in 2011 following a referendum under a self-determination clause in a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of conflict.

Foreign affairs minister Nhial Deng Nhial said the president had met with African leaders in Addis Ababa to discuss the need to “double up efforts” to resolve the new nation’s ongoing dispute with Sudan once and for all.

Nhial, who was part of delegation accompanying the president, made the remarks after returning from the Ethiopian capital where he attended the signing of a UN-backed peace deal aimed at breaking hostilities and delivering stability in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where M23 rebels are battling government forces in the country’s east since 2009.

“[Kiir told them - especially our African neighbours and the regional leaders who have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of our problem with Sudan - to explore ways to break infinite negotiations”, Marial told reporters on arrival at Juba International Airport on Sunday.

“The president made it very clear that it is the African leaders [who] should take the issue between and the Republic of Sudan more seriously. He told them to act instead of [supporting] infinite talks”, he added.

It’s not the first time the president has spoken critically of the constant cycle of discussions with Khartoum, which have so far failed to yield few results, telling African leaders at an African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) meeting in January that it was time to “shift from rhetoric to action” and decide on a binding framework.

While stressing his country supports Congo peace efforts, Nhial said resolving the long-running dispute with Sudan was a pressing importance closer to home, asserting a trust-building process was needed to break the stalemate.

“Sudan needs to come out of rhetoric and move forward to implement the September agreement which we have signed. This is how we can build trust. Trust cannot be built by the use of violence. Trust can be built through dialogue and by honouring promises that have already been made,” he said.

“It is my hope that the Republic of Sudan will abide by international norms and make the right choice so that the trust-building process can move forward,” adding that such steps are urgently needed to tackle the worsening security situation unfolding in border areas.

He maintains no country would tolerate any action that threatens the lives of the people and the security of the two nations.

“The whole world needs peace. They need stability and this is the path we are pursuing to end the conflict”, Nhial said.

South Sudan and its northern neighbour signed a number of peace deals last September brokered by the African Union (AU) and aimed at ending a number of outstanding issues between the two countries, regarding border demarcation, setting up a buffer zone and the final status of the disputed Abyei area.

However, implementation of the agreements has stalled, amid differing interpretations of the signed deals, with a series of recent AU-led talks failing to reinvigorate the process. Both sides accuse each other of deliberately undermining the peace process and showing a lack of commitment to resolving differences.

The situation has caused a stalemate between the two countries, with Khartoum refusing to accept passage of South Sudan’s oil flows through its territories unless Juba ends its alleged support for SPLM-N rebels, which is fighting the Sudanese army in the north’s restive Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

In unusual rebuke, Saudi Arabia accuses Ethiopia of posing threats to Sudan & Egypt

February 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – A senior Saudi Arabian official unleashed a barrage of attack against Ethiopia saying that the Horn of Africa nation is posing a threat to the Nile water rights of Egypt and Sudan.

The [Grand] Renaissance dam has its capacity of flood waters reaching more than 70 billion cubic meters of water, and is located at an altitude of 700 meters and if it collapsed then Khartoum will drown completely and the impact will even reach the Aswan Dam," the Saudi deputy defense minister Khalid Bin Sultan said at the meetings of the Arab Water Council in Cairo.

"Egypt is the most affected party from the Ethiopian Renaissance dam because they have no alternative water source compared to other Nile Basin countries and the establishment of the dam 12 kilometers from the Sudanese border is for political plotting rather than for economic gain and constitutes a threat to Egyptian and Sudanese national security "the Saudi official said.

The massive $4.8 billion dam is under construction and is scheduled for completion in 2015. It lies close to Sudan’s eastern borders and has a power generating capacity of 6,000MW and when completed it will enable Ethiopia to export more power to its neighbors.

Egypt fears that the Nile dam will reduce the flow of the river’s waters further downstream and Addis Ababa has long complained that Cairo was pressuring donor countries and international lenders to withhold funding.

An international panel of experts is set to announce its findings on the impact of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile’s flow in May 2013.

The Saudi deputy defense minister went further saying that Ethiopia is keen on harming Arab nations.

"There are fingers messing with water resources of Sudan and Egypt which are rooted in the mind and body of Ethiopia. They do not forsake an opportunity to harm Arabs without taking advantage of it" Prince Khalid said.

"The establishment of the dam leads to the transfer of water supply from the front of Lake Nasser to the Ethiopian plateau, which means full Ethiopian control of every drop of water, as well as [causing] an environmental imbalance stirring seismic activity in the region as a result of the massive water weight laden with silt withheld in front of the dam, estimated by experts at more than 63 billion tonnes," he added.

The Saudi official added that Nile basin countries calling for reallocating Nile water shares is a "real threat" to Egypt’s future.

"The information is alarming and it is important that we do not underestimate the danger at the moment and its repercussions in the future," he said.

It is unusual for Saudi officials known for being composed to make such damning criticism of other countries. It is not clear whether today’s remarks indicates hidden tensions with Ethiopia.

Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with Ethiopia, signed an agreement to overturn British-colonial-era agreements dating back to 1929.

These gave Egypt and Sudan 90 percent of the Nile’s water flow and the power of veto over dam-building, even though 85 percent of the river’s water flows from the Ethiopian highlands.

Ethiopia and the upstream states contend they need more water because of burgeoning populations, industrialization and agricultural projects.

Water needs are expected to rise as the Nile basin population is projected to reach 654 million by 2030, up from 372 million in 2005, according to UN estimates.

Blanket condemnation of secret deportation of Sudanese migrants

 

Human rights activists and politicians blast deportation as immoral and in violation of Israel’s most basic obligations under international law. No response has yet been received from PM Netanyahu or Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

By Talila Nesher | Feb.27, 2013 | 5:42 AM
 
News that Israel has secretly deported more than 1,000 Sudanese migrants via a third country sparked an outcry Tuesday among human rights activists and politicians, with Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich describing the deportations as “immoral” and MK Dov Khenin of Hadash calling for them to be halted immediately.

Khenin also asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to investigate who ordered the repatriation in the first place.

Sudan defines Israel as an enemy country and has warned that it will punish any of its citizens who set foot here. Consequently, human rights groups said, the deportation constitutes a violation of Israel’s most basic obligations under international law.

“The ease with which the State of Israel is willing to force people to return to a place where their lives are in danger, even if this danger arises only because they were in Israel, is worrying, and shows that we have become a society that sanctifies Jewish demography and gives it priority over humanistic Jewish values,” said Reut Michaeli, executive director of the Hotline for Migrant Workers.
 
While the state claims that all those deported left voluntarily, aid groups say the deportees were coerced by the threat that if they didn’t go, they could be jailed for years under a recent amendment to the Infiltration Law.

Sudanese migrants “who hear from government representatives that the law enables them to be held in prison forever without trial, and without their being able to apply for refugee status, despair,” said Michaeli. “They are even willing to endanger their lives to gain a slim chance at freedom.”

Shahar Shoham, who heads the migrants department of Physicians for Human Rights, agreed that the deportees could not really be said to have acted out of their own free will.

“At our open clinic, we treat many who report daily anxiety, fear of walking down the street and suicidal thoughts,” she said. “Is this free choice? And more than that, is this the treatment and protection we as a state give to victims of torture, human trafficking and persecution?”

Israel attempted to protect the deportees by deporting them via a third country to conceal the fact that they came from Israel, but the deportation took place without the knowledge or supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“In deporting [people] to Sudan, Israel has crossed a red line and is not only violating its most basic obligation under international law, but demonstrating cruelty, hardheartedness and indifference to the fate of human beings,” Assaf, the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, said in a statement.

Haaretz, which first broke the story, has repeatedly tried to obtain a response from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, but his office again refused to comment Tuesday. As of press time, no response had been received from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
 
Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On assailed Weinstein. “The attorney general is responsible for the fact that Israel’s government is acting contrary to the rule of law,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
 
Yacimovich said Israel should be helping asylum seekers, not sending them back.

“The Jewish nation is well-versed in persecution and pogroms, so we have a special obligation to extend aid to refugees from genocide,” she said.

Sudan defense minister in Saudi Arabia despite ICC warrant

February 25, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein met today in Riyadh with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the state media reported.

Saudi official news agency (SPA) said the two officials reviewed the bilateral relations between the two countries, ways to enhance them and the latest developments at Arab and international arenas.

Sudan army spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad was quoted by the country’s news agency (SUNA) as saying that the two sides discussed military cooperation following the conclusion of joint naval exercise this week.

The purpose of the drill was said to be enhancing abilities of naval forces in Saudi Arabia and Sudan to combat piracy and smuggling.

Relations between Khartoum and Riyadh have been strained lately over Sudan’s close ties with Iran.

Khartoum twice allowed Iranian warships last year to dock in Port Sudan drawing concern of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Last November the Saudi pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper in its editorial titled
"The fall of masks between Iran and Sudan" blasted Khartoum over the Iranian warships saying there is no "logical justification" for relationship between the two countries.

The previously unannounced visit by Hussein marks one of the few times he has travelled abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him last year on 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 counts of war crimes allegedly committed during the years 2003-2004 in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

Since the warrant Hussein has became more discreet in his foreign trips and his office has not been making his travel plans known in advance.

The defense minister has made trips to Libya, Ethiopia and South Sudan since the warrant, none of which are members of the court.

Saudi Arabia is also not a signatory to the ICC’s statute and therefore has no obligation to apprehend Hussein.

However in 2007 the ICC revealed that Saudi Arabia was aware of a plan aimed at nabbing then Sudan’s state minister for humanitarian affairs Ahmed Haroun on his way to Mecca for pilgrimage.

Haroun ended up cancelling his travel plans.

Sudan-Egypt relations hits speed bump over Four Freedoms accord

February 25, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government on Sunday expressed unhappiness with the reluctance of Egypt to implement the Four Freedoms agreement signed in 2004 despite a revolution that brought a new government to power.

The head of Egyptian affairs at the Sudanese foreign ministry Esam Awad said in press statements that Egypt remains unwilling to allow Sudanese males between the ages of 18-49 to benefit from the agreement.

Furthermore, Egypt wants its citizens to have freehold ownership rights which Awad says contradicts the lease law in Sudan.

The official said the matter would be escalated to 1st Vice president Ali Osman Taha for a decision.

The Four Freedom Agreement guarantees to citizens from the two countries freedom of movement and residence, right to work and property. It was signed in Cairo by former president Hosni Mubarak and Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on 18 January 2004.

Egypt under Mubarak feared a massive influx by refugees or even terrorists from Sudan if the accord was implemented.

Awad also disclosed that Cairo has yet to return 100 vehicles belonging to Sudanese gold miners who entered Egyptian borders by mistake.

The miners were released only after several appeals from Khartoum but the equipments and vehicles remained in the Egyptian side.

On the decades-long border dispute over Halayeb triangle in the borders, Awad said that Sudan insists on its sovereignty over the area but added that the time is not ripe for discussing the matter because of the current political instability in Egypt.

He revealed that the opening of the border crossings has been delayed again at the request of Egypt which was originally scheduled for early March.

The two countries agreed to overcome a disagreement in the crossings agreement by replacing the "international borders" clause with the "latitude line 22 ” as Sudan saw it as inferring Egypt ownership of Halayeb triangle.

The genesis of the disputes over Halayeb dates back to as early as 1958 after Sudan gained independence from being ruled jointly by Britain and Egypt. The wrangle is a result of a discrepancy in the demarcation of political boundaries set by the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium and the ones set earlier by the British in 1902.

Cairo rejects any international arbitration over the area. This week Sudan’s foreign ministry said that the country’s complaint to the UNSC on Halayeb has been pending since 1958 and is renewed annually for consideration.

Sudanese officials including Bashir welcomed the overthrow of Mubarak in February 2011 and accused the latter of conspiring against Khartoum in the past.

Sudan’s Islamist government is hoping that it will have much in common with Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

Islamists counter "New Dawn" charter with "Islamic Dawn"

February 24, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – A number of Islamic oriented bodies signed the blueprint for the "Islamic Dawn" charter which calls for establishing Sharia’a law in Sudan and banning any parties which oppose that.

One of the key signatories was Al-Tayeb Mustafa who heads the right-wing Just Peace Forum (JPF) party.

"The Islamic opposition will be the alternative to secular opposition," Mustafa said adding that "if the regime is overthrown the alternative will be an Islamic [government]".

Mustafa, who is the uncle of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir, lambasted the New Dawn charter signed by opposition forces and rebel groups in Uganda last month calling it a deal to overthrow Islam and not the government.

The Sudanese government and ruling National Congress Party (NCP) launched a fierce campaign against the New Dawn charter saying it aims at changing Sudan’s Arab-Islamic identity and threatened to prosecute and ban its signatories.

"Islamic Dawn" charter calls for drafting an Islamic constitution based on the Quran and Sunna stressing that this should not be subject to any kind of referendum.

Any laws or codes that contradicts Sharia’a law should be abrogated, the charter says. Furthermore, parties or institutions that are based on opposing these principles shall be prohibited.

The charter which consists of 263 articles also calls for spreading a culture of tolerance and forgiveness while strengthening the role of preachers in resolving tribal disputes.

The government must launch war on corruption and act swiftly against those implicated in public and fair trials, the charter says.

It also calls for comprehensive economic reforms based on Sharia’a law and not limit Islamic economy to banking and insurance.

Sudanese officials including president Bashir made it clear that the upcoming constitution will be "100% Islamic" but opposition parties say that this is a cover for oppressive laws.

Some critics assert that the separation of Sudan into north and south in July 2011 was in part a result of Khartoum’s insistence on Islamic law.

The parties which signed the "New Dawn" charter in Kampala agreed on the need to prevent exploitation of religion in politics.

Sudan buys gas oil from Kuwait at a premium to avoid damage to refinery: expert

February 24, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government has resorted to buying gas oil from Kuwait at a high premium to avoid possible damage to Khartoum refinery, an energy expert told.

The expert, who asked not to be named, said that the refinery’s activity was negatively impacted by the secession of oil-rich South Sudan and instability of domestic oil production.

"The refinery must keep operating because stopping it means losing it once and for all," he said.

Local newspapers have quoted sources this week as saying that the Sudanese Petroleum Corporation has bought 520 tonnes of gas oil from Vitol Group and Independent Petroleum Group of Kuwait Ltd.

The sources said that Sudan had bought 8 shipments each one consists of 40,000 tonnes from Vitol Group and 5 shipments from Independent Petroleum Group of Kuwait Ltd that will be delivered from February to March.

Sudan bought the shipments at a premium of between $4.50-$5.more than market prices which comes at a time of projected shortage in supplies as a result of busy schedule for refinery maintenance during the second quarter of the year.

"The shipment will be delivered on a rush basis but the money will be paid [by Sudan] in the month of June which is why the Sudanese government accepted a sales prices which is $4 higher than Middle East price tag" the expert said.

The expert said that Khartoum is boosting its oil supplies to prevent fuel shortage and improve its negotiating position with South Sudan even if it means paying more.

"It is difficult for the government to find a solution to its economic and oil crisis without reaching a peace deal with South Sudan because the international community has become scarce toward Khartoum" he said.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 under a deal that ended decades of civil war. A year ago, South Sudan shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels per day after failing to agree on export and transit fees with Khartoum.

But both countries had agreed last September to set up a demilitarized buffer zone and resume oil production, but neither side has withdrawn its army from the 1,200-mile border.

Sudan insists that security arrangements are concluded before oil exports can resume.

S. Sudan denies it plans to abandon Lamu port project

February 22, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan has disputed reports claiming it may abandon a plan to develop a crude oil pipeline between its oil fields and the port of Lamu in neighbouring Kenya.

The Kenya-based Standard newspaper, earlier this week, quoted the chairperson of New Sudan Federation (NSF), Costello Garang Ring, saying South Sudan could consider going to Djibouti or Tanga, “if the speed with which the Kenya government is constructing Lamu port and doing the railway does not change dramatically”.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s information minister, told journalists the NSF chairperson might have been quoted “out of context”.

“I can assure you that there is no way that the Republic of South Sudan is going to pull out of the Lamu project because it is a project that has a lot of future for the three countries, including our own country,” he said.

Marial said the project, estimated to cost between $22-23 billion, is a multi-approach project, to which the three countries of Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia have committed themselves.

“It is geared towards development. In this project, there is the construction of highways, tourist cities, a pipeline [South Sudan-Kenya pipeline], the port, an airfield and railway lines connecting the two countries”, the minister told.

Marial said construction of the pipeline through the Kenyan port of Lamu will begin when feasibility studies, contracted to German company ILF, are completed by the end of the year.

He expressed optimism that the country could export its oil via the Kenyan transport link by 2014, if construction started immediately after completion of feasibility studies on the proposed route.

Last week, South Sudan’s council of ministers unanimously agreed to endorse the petroleum and mining policy framework of the oil ministry, which will guide petroleum and mining activities, as well as the operation of the ministry and its partners.

Officials say the new policy will play a vital role in laying out procedures and processes relating to granting contracts to international and national companies wishing to invest in the petroleum and mining sector.

South Sudan shut down oil output a year ago following a dispute over how much the new nation should pay in pipeline fees to transport crude via its northern neighbour for export from Port Sudan.

During the African Union-backed talks in Ethiopia last month, both governments failed to reach an agreement on a number of sticking points, including the South’s alleged ongoing support for northern rebels and the withdrawal of troops from border regions - a prerequisite for resuming oil exports.

Egypt will join ICC but ensure that Sudan’s Bashir is safe from arrest: official

February 21, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – Egypt intends to soon ratify the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and utilize a loophole that allows it to avoid apprehending Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir, an official said.

Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be charged by the Hague-based court since its inception in 2002 on ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

He has avoided the risk of arrest to date mostly by travelling to non-ICC members though four African state parties allowed him to visit without taking him into custody.

Egypt, a frequent stop for Bashir in his travels abroad since the warrants, said that it will move ahead with ratification of the Rome statute.

Cairo signed the Rome Statute in 2000 but has yet to ratify it, a process which required parliamentary review.

The Egyptian justice minister Ahmed Mekki made the disclosure on Tuesday at a workshop held at his ministry on International humanitarian law.

"Egypt will soon join the International Criminal Court treaty after reaching a solution to the most important obstacle preventing it from joining," Mekki was quoted as saying by the Turkey-based Anadolu news agency.

The justice minister asserted that his country "could sign a bilateral agreement with Sudan to overcome this obstacle for the sake of joining the court to put Egypt among the countries that respect human rights".

Mekki is referring to Article 98 of the Rome Statute which states that "the court may not proceed with a request for surrender or assistance which would require the requested State to act inconsistently with its obligations under international law with respect to the State or diplomatic immunity of a person or property of a third State, unless the Court can first obtain the cooperation of that third State for the waiver of the immunity".

The United States is the only country so far to have resorted to this controversial method and signed bilateral immunity agreements with over 100 states to avoid the possibility of dragging its troops to the court while being deployed abroad.

However, it remains to be seen whether Sudan will even agree to such an arrangement which could be interpreted as a recognition on its part of the court’s jurisdiction.

Sudan argues that it is not bound by the ICC orders despite a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution in March 2005 referring the Darfur situation to the court under a Chapter VII resolution because the country is not a state party.

This clause in the treaty is also subject to different interpretations and some legal experts say that it is up to the ICC judges to rule on whether an immunity agreement is a good enough reason to avoid surrendering a suspect.

In a ruling issued in late 2011 over Malawi’s refusal to arrest Bashir, the judges said that " to interpret article 98(1) in such a way so as to justify not surrendering Omar Al Bashir on immunity grounds would disable the Court and international criminal justice in ways completely contrary to the purpose of the Statute Malawi has ratified”.

If Egypt moves ahead with ratification, it would make it the fourth Arab state to join the court. Tunisia was the last Arab nation to accede to the Rome Statute in 2011.

Both Egypt and Tunisia witnessed a revolution in 2011 that toppled regimes which ruled with an iron fist for decades.

Officials in the two countries vowed to ratify a number of international humanitarian treaties to demonstrate their commitments to the rule of law.

Sudanese officials have privately expressed concern over Egypt’s intention to join the court, first announced by former foreign minister Nabil Elaraby in April 2011, which they see as a blow to their efforts to undermine the ICC in Africa and the Arab world.

The former Sudanese justice minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat echoed the sentiment telling a visiting Egyptian delegation consisting of political leaders in May 2011 that Cairo should review its decision on joining the ICC.

"I blame the Egyptian foreign ministry for their decision to ratify the [Rome] treaty which was rejected by the Arab League besides ignoring the feelings of the brotherly Sudanese people which the court is working to threaten their security," Sabdarat said.

"Did Egypt solve all its internal and external problems to worry in the present time about joining the ICC?" he added.

Sabdarat further said that Sudanese people felt "stabbed in the back" when Egyptian officials met with ex-ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo during his visits to Cairo at the time. He said that the Egyptian diplomacy should act with more "awareness" when dealing with Sudanese issues.

Egypt considers Sudan a strategic backyard for it particularly as it struggles to prevent African Nile basin countries from amending colonial treaties giving it the lion’s share of the Nile waters. So far Sudan has sided with Egypt in this dispute.

The United Nations has said as many as 300,000 people died in the Darfur conflict. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Besides Bashir, his defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun and militia leader Ali Kushayb are also wanted by the court.

Khartoum unhappy with US plans for a South Sudan donor conference

February 21, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government criticized a proposed plan by the United States to host a South Sudan donors conference saying it will embolden Juba not to implement cooperation agreement signed last year.

The Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Al-Obeid Marwih suggested that Washington was seeking to avert what it saw as an imminent economic collapse in the oil-rich South Sudan.

Princeton Lyman, the outgoing U.S. special envoy to Sudan, announced last week that they will pull donors together to figure out ways by which they can assist the nation which came to life in July 2011.

The U.S. official warned that a collapse in South Sudan "would be calamitous" for the entire region.

More than a year ago, Juba suspended its oil production in response to Sudan’s seizure of a portion of the exported oil to make up for what it says are unpaid transit fees. The landlocked nation however, could only export its oil through the pipelines that run through Sudan’s territories and end at the Red Sea port city.

Last September, the two countries resolved the oil transit fee row and signed a deal, among several others in Ethiopia, to resume exports but Khartoum insists that security arrangements must be concluded first before it is implemented.

Marwih said that the conference will have a "negative impact" on the cooperation accords as Juba will drag its feet on outstanding security issues with Sudan.

The Sudanese official stressed that Juba backtracked on what was agreed upon in relation to resolving security issues and allowing for executing all cooperation deals in one go.

He alleged that lobby groups in Washington pressed the Obama administration to hold the conference for fear of seeing the new state drown into chaos.

Marwih said that South Sudan’s economy is in deep trouble because of the oil production halt adding that international community was keen on seeing Khartoum and Juba resolve their differences so that oil exports can resume and provide the much-needed cash.

In a related issue the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) expressed concern about situation in South Sudan in the wake of changes ordered by Salva Kiir in the army.

The NCP Organizational Communication officer Hamed Sideeg said that his party has failed to understand the direction or predict policies of South Sudan government due to different factions and pressure groups in Juba.

Sideeg expressed hope that Kiir’s army reshuffle would mean that pro-peace groups would prevail but warned that this change was nonetheless prompted by tribal considerations.

He said that Khartoum does not care who rules in Juba noting that they are only interested in maintaining good ties with South Sudan.

The NCP official also pointed out that Lyman remarks on a collapse in South Sudan is an indication of the west’s failure in continuing support to Juba which he said is plagued with corruption and lacks the ingredient of a state.

He said that United Nations and international aid groups provided the basic needs for Southern Sudanese and eventually managed to influence the policies of Juba’s government.

Opposition leader explains why he is against use of arms to topple Bashir’s regime

February 19, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The leader of the main opposition party in Sudan, Sadiq Al-Mahdi said the regime of the National Congress Party (NCP) is crumbling but he warned however against calls to topple it by the use of arms.

Sadiq Al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma National Party (UNP) calls to hold a national political conference to settle the ongoing conflicts and to set the basis of a democratic regime. Following what, he suggests to establish an all-party parliament to prepare a new constitution and to form an interim cabinet.

Speaking to the press on Monday Mahdi explained why the opposition political parties disagree with the rebel groups on use of violence to bring down the regime of Omer Al-Bashir.

"Any attempt to change the regime (coup d’état or revolutionary) would give the government, if it fails, a new incentive to speak about defence of the nation, its interests and rights", he said.

He went further to say "if it (the change) succeeds , the other forces (who did not took part in the armed attempt) will be excluded", stressing that historically all those who achieved regime change through force or a coup had never associated others with them.

The UNP and other opposition parties inside the country engaged a dialogue with the rebel groups members of the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces (SRF) in order to set out a programme for the future of the country and to end the ongoing armed conflicts.

However, the opposition dismissed a document released from the Ugandan capital Kampala on 5 January "New Dawn Charter" because it calls to use arms to topple the regime and to establish a secular state in Sudan.

The opposition said the charter is a "draft agreement" and called for more talks with the rebels on the other side who formed a committee to dialogue with the political parties and to convince more political and civil society groups to join the deal.

Al-Mahdi criticised SRF forces saying they committed faults in the Kampala agreement and thus gave the regime a strong boost, but the latter has not benefited much from it, given the awareness of the political forces, he added.

Nonetheless, the opposition leader vowed to keep discussions with the armed groups to end the war and reach peaceful settlement. He further rejected the government threats against the political parties if they do not stop their dialogue with the rebels.

The UNP leader urged, on the other hand, to reform the structure of the opposition "National Consensus Forces", to review its programmes and to elect a new "neutral leadership", as he said.

He underlined that its name "National Consensus" does not reflect the reality of the opposition coalition.

The opposition forces that all say opposed to the use of arms to topple the regime, disagree on the separation between religion and politics after the fall of the regime, they also diverge on the dialogue with the regime and other issues.

Al-Mahdi who returned from White Nile state on the border with South Sudan also said he plans to launch an initiative to settle the disputes with the new southern neighbour and accused the ruling NCP of seeking to take advantage from the current crisis with Juba and to mobilise popular support.

Saudi Arabia and Sudan hold first joint naval exercises

February 18, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese Navy and Royal Saudi Naval Forces have conducted their first joint maritime military exercise.

The disclosure was first made by the Commander of the navy base in Port Sudan, Admiral Magdi Sayed Omer who told Al-Sudani daily newspaper that “the joint exercises will continue until next Thursday”.

He added that the drill comes in the framework of enhancing maritime diplomacy and Red Sea security.

Omer stressed that the current maneuvers are the first of their kind and will form a starting point for joint efforts aimed at securing the Red Sea and strengthening relations between Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Later the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad told state news agency (SUNA) that the purpose of the joint exercise is to train the naval forces in both countries on combating the different kinds of smuggling.

Col. Sa’ad added that Sawarmi said that this is the first exercise of its kind between Sudan and Saudi Arabia stressing that they will continue in the future.

He said that Sudan received two Saudi ships along with an unspecified number of Saudi special forces and marines.

Sudan’s controversial decision to allow two Iranian warships to dock at Port Sudan last October angered its Arab Gulf state neighbours, raising questions about the level of military cooperation between the two countries.

The arrival of the Iranian warships coincided with the bombing of Khartoum’s Al-Yarmook military factory rumoured to be linked to Tehran, with the Sudanese government accusing Israel of the attack.

Khartoum’s links with Tehran have been met with suspicion, particularly in the Gulf.

The Saudi pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper blasted Khartoum over the Iranian warships, questioning the logics behind the relationship between the two countries in a heavily critical editorial published that month titled “The fall of masks between Iran and Sudan”.

“Bashir’s government resorting to a state that is in political and security odds with most Arab countries has no logical justification,” the newspaper said.

The editorial accused the Sudanese government of “conducting naive policy”, saying it had turned the country, despite its enormous potentials, to a marginalised nation that is unable to attract Arab or foreign investors.

The Sudanese army spokesperson told media at the time the arrival of the warships had nothing to do with the destruction of the Al-Yarmook facility, saying the visit was pre-planned before the airstrike and aimed at sharing military expertise.

Khartoum also denied reports that suggested the arms factory was producing Iranian weapons.

Last November, Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti publicly criticised the government for allowing Iran’s naval warships to dock in Port Sudan, saying the government’s actions were hurting its relations with its Arab Gulf state neighbours.

He also denied that the country received any request from Tehran to forge an alliance aimed at protecting the Red Sea.

Sudan expects oil production to reach 200,000 bpd in 2013

February 15, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan will manage to boost its oil production to 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) by year end, a parliamentary committee member said on Thursday.

In statements to Sudan official news agency (SUNA), MP Babiker Mohamed Tom, who sits on the economic committee at the national assembly, praised the oil ministry’s exploration efforts across the country.

The lawmaker also lauded the ministry for building airports, roads and hospitals in the states where it is operating. He pointed out that oil played an instrumental role in developing the petroleum sector allowing for the creation of a large pool of qualified engineers and geologists who worked in Chinese and Malaysian companies.

These companies supported the country’s finances through their payment of corporate taxes, he said.

Tom pointed out that oil exports accounted for 91% of Sudan’s national income until South Sudan’s secession in July 2011 after which this figure dropped to 10%.

The East African country, which currently pumps 136,000 -140,000 bpd, lost three-quarters of its output when South Sudan seceded. The drop in oil, its main source of budget and trade revenues, has thrown its economy into turmoil.

Sudan had originally planned to reach 180,000 bpd by the end of the 2012, but its major Heglig oilfield was damaged during a brief occupation by South Sudan’s army and border fighting between the two countries last April.

Several oilfields were inaugurated over the last few months in Sudan which added around 20,000 barrels to the daily production.

In a related issue Tom praised the recent deal to export Chadian oil through Sudan saying it will create new job opportunities and bring new source of hard currency.

The agreement was announced during a visit by Chadian president Idriss Deby to Khartoum earlier this month where he met with Sudan’s Omer Hassan al-Bashir. No details were given about the terms and logistics of the arrangement.

A year ago, South Sudan shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels per day after failing to agree on export and transit fees with Khartoum.

Sudan was counting on the transit fee to plug part of the budget hole created by the country’s partition.

Sudan arrests prominent Islamic figure at airport upon return from trip abroad

February 15, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Youssef al-Koda who leads the Al-Wasat Islamic party was arrested at Khartoum airport upon his return from a trip abroad where he officially joined the ranks of the opposition seeking to topple the government led by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

The family of al-Koda and opposition sources said that officers belonging to Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) boarded the plane and took him into custody before other passengers could even leave their seats.

The Chairman of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) Farouk Abu Essa was one of the opposition figures waiting for al-Koda in the airport lobby along with his family members. He described his detention as an "immoral act" that could backfire.

Al-Koda’s brother Mubarak who is an active member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) slammed the "disrespectful act" by the Sudanese authorities.

"We are not against the arrest if there was something warranting it but they should have allowed him to go first and meet his family from which was he absent for nearly a month" Mubarak said.

"If this is how the government deals with others then we will have another point of view [about the government] though I won’t say that I will go [as far] towards [Malik] Agar [Chairman of Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF)] or his likes," he added.

Last month al-Koda signed a joint statement in the Ugandan capital with the SRF chairman who acted as representative of the signatories to the "New Dawn" charter.

The joint statement signed by al-Koda and Agar stated that citizenship should form the basis of all rights without regards to religion, race, color, ethnicity, political or geographical affiliation.

They also emphasized the need to guarantee right of expression and belief under the rule of law, independent judiciary, democracy, peaceful transfer of power and establishing a federal system of governance.

Issues in dispute are to be deferred for more discussions and preferably in the context of a constitutional conference, the statement said.

The "New Dawn" charter which aggravated the NCP calls for toppling the regime and preventing the exploitation of religion in politics and restructuring the state’s institutions such as the army to make it a national non-partisan ones.

The Sudanese government launched a fierce media campaign against the deal and detained some of the parties’ representatives who attended the signing upon their return to Khartoum. Some officials even threatened to ban and prosecute all parties that joined the agreement unless they officially dissociate themselves from it.

Khartoum said the agreement wants to change Sudan into a secular state describing that as a move that contradicts the wishes of the majority of the Islamic country.

Some of the signatories including the National Umma Party (NUP), Popular Congress Party (PCP) and Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) later distanced themselves from the charter saying they were rushed into it and expressed reservations on some of its clauses.

Speaking to reporters after signing, al-Koda attacked the NCP accusing it of corruption and exploiting religion to stay in power.

"[T]hey [NCP] ruled all this time as if they were mandated by Allah and not mandated by the people," he said.

Qutbi al-Mahdi, a leading NCP figure slammed al-Koda’s move towards anti-Khartoum forces saying that this makes his party a secular one in alliance with the Arab Baath and Communist parties.

But al-Koda responded to these remarks in his Facebook page saying that "the duty of reform and change" is not limited to Islamic movement or Islam as a religion.

"I did not join the opposition to teach them religion or transform them from secularism to Islamic [ideology] and to start with this was not the issue, but the issue is how to rid the country from the grip of people who ruined [the nation] and hurt it in the name of Islam".

"This wrong understanding had terrible implications on public funds and the party had no segregation between its pocket and the government’s pocket....They wrongly thought after all this and their flawed beliefs that they were empowered by Allah," he added.

Al-Koda is considered to be a moderate figure who has been outspoken against Salafist hardline groups.

He is known for his daring views such as calling on Bashir to step down given his status as a sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and supporting the use of condoms which other Islamic scholars have vehemently opposed.

security talks between Khartoum and Juba postponed indefinitely

February 14, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The joint political-security talks between Sudan and South Sudan that were scheduled to start on Wednesday in the Ethiopian capital have been postponed indefinitely, according to a news report.

The privately-owned Al-Shorooq TV said that the African Union mediation team led by Thabo Mbeki did not set a new date for the negotiations.

No reason was given for the delay but sources told the TV that the United States was behind the move over the slow pace of implementing the previous deals signed last September.

Sudan’s President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir failed at talks in Ethiopia last month to end a stalemate over withdrawing armies from a border region - a pre-requisite for resuming oil exports.

Landlocked South Sudan shut oil output a year ago in a dispute over how much the new nation should pay in pipeline fees to Sudan to transport crude via its northern neighbor for export from Port Sudan on the Mediterranean.

Delegations from the two countries were to discuss modalities of the security arrangements. Khartoum accused Juba last month of making new demands on the demilitarized zone and of refusing to give up its alleged support to rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The SPLM-N, made up of fighters who sided with the South during the civil war, controls part of the Sudan side of the border, which complicates setting up the buffer zone.

In a related issue the Sudanese army denied that any skirmishes erupted with South Sudan at the borders or that they have been any military buildup on their part.

"There is no truth to the accusation by South Sudan that we are amassing our troops along the border area and there are no armed battles between us and them, but there are existing tribal interactions that caused the recent armed conflict," Sudan army spokesperson Colonel al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad said.

He also downplayed reports that South Sudan deployed troops to the borders saying that they have not monitored anything unusual.

Col. Sa’ad stressed that Juba has no capability or interest in going to war with Sudan.

Yesterday South Sudan’s Kiir ordered the urgent and coordinated deployment of joint police and government troops to border areas with Sudan.

Juba accused Khartoum of building up troops and using militia groups to attack areas along the border in Unity state.

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