Government and rebels extend truce

The Sudanese government and southern rebels agreed on Monday to extend a cessation of hostilities agreement until next March, but failed to reach full accord on the sharing of power and wealth.

A statement from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional body overseeing peace talks, said both sides had agreed to extend the "Memorandum of Understanding on the Cessation of Hostilities" until 31 March 2003, and to continue scheduled meetings designed to ensure implementation of that MOU.

Both the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) originally agreed in October to cease hostilities for the duration of talks, which were at that time scheduled to last until the end of the year.

Mediators had hoped to strike a comprehensive power-sharing deal before talks adjourned on Monday. However, the parties will now return to the negotiating table in January to work out the structure of a government of national unity, and also to discuss the thorny issue of wealth-sharing, including the distribution of Sudan's growing oil revenues.

Although government and rebel negotiators failed to reach specific agreement, they did sign a deal which sketched the broad outlines of a post-conflict government, and provided a basis for future talks.

According to the IGAD statement, both parties had in principle agreed to: a bicameral national legislature with equitable representation of the people of south Sudan; ensure that civil service and cabinet posts be representative of the people of Sudan; and to hold free and fair elections during a six-year interim period.

The current talks are building on the Machakos Protocol - an interim accord signed in Kenya in July. Under that agreement, the people of south Sudan are allowed a vote on whether to secede from the north after a six-year interim period, during which time both north and south will be under the control of a national unity government.