Khartoum denies rebels’ cease-fire breach claims

By Mohammed Amin

KHARTOUM (AA) – The Sudanese government on Saturday denied claims by a prominent rebel group that it violated the terms of a countrywide cease-fire last week.

In July, President Omar al-Bashir declared a three-month cease-fire in Sudan’s Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.

Late last week, however, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) — one of the country’s main rebel groups — said it had repulsed an attack by government forces on rebel positions in Blue Nile.

In a statement, SPLM-N spokesman Mubarak Ardol accused the government of intentionally violating the truce, calling on the international community to acknowledge the alleged cease-fire breaches.

But in a statement released Saturday, Sudanese army spokesman Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami dismissed the claims, describing them as “mere fabrications”.

“These are lies by the rebels,” he said. “They are not substantiated by any evidence on the ground.”

The Sudanese Armed Forces, al-Shami added, “are fully committed to the countrywide cease-fire”.

He went on to accuse the rebels of trying to obstruct Khartoum’s efforts to have U.S. sanctions on Sudan — in place since the early 1990s — lifted.

“These allegations [of cease-fire breaches] are intended to sabotage the Sudanese foreign minister’s current visit to the U.S., where he is conducting delicate talks with U.S. officials about lifting the sanctions in October,” the statement read.

The U.S. earlier postponed its decision on lifting the sanctions from July 12 to Oct. 12 to ensure the full implementation of a so-called “five-tracks deal” between Washington and Khartoum.

In addition to stepped-up cooperation in the fight against terrorism, implementation of a country-wide ceasefire is one of Washington’s main conditions for lifting the sanctions.