Darfur rebels deny signing truce agreement

The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebels operating in Darfur, northern Sudan, have denied signing a truce agreement with the Sudanese government.

"There is no truce agreement between the government and us," Minni Arkou Minnawi, secretary general of the SLA, told IRIN on Friday.

He said the rebel group had sent a list of demands to Khartoum with a government delegation which visited the region recently for talks with the rebels. "We told them they have to stop the fighting, and after that we can negotiate," said Minnawi.

He claimed the government had been "continuously bombing" the area, including Adar in northern Darfur on Friday. But Muhammad Ahmad Dirdeiry, Sudan's deputy ambassador to Kenya, told IRIN he had no information concerning the reports of recent fighting.

On Thursday, a member of the Sudanese opposition in exile, Dr Sharif Harir of the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance, accused the government of bombing over 20 villages in Darfur since the end of June, killing scores of civilians in the process.

Harir, who is from Darfur and says he has daily contact with the SLA and other sources in the region, warned that if the bombing continued throughout the planting season, food shortages would become intense.

"If bombing continues, people will not be able to produce. We are looking at a human catastrophe in the next two or three months," he told IRIN.

While there is no independent verification of the fighting, Kutum in northern Darfur and Teinah on the Chad border have been declared no-go areas, UN sources told IRIN.

The SLA was formed early this year. In a political declaration released in March, Minnawi said it had taken up arms because the Khartoum government had "introduced policies of marginalisation, racial discrimination, and exploitation, that had disrupted the peaceful coexistence between the region's African and Arab communities".

He added that the SLA's objective was to "create a united democratic Sudan" on the basis of equality and devolution of power.