Sudan questions use of fresh peace deal with Chad

( Reuter )- Sudan wants peace with its neighbor Chad but doubts the value of signing a fresh reconciliation pact after a string of previous accords failed, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Tuesday.

His remarks, at a news conference at the end of an official visit to Dubai, raised questions over Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade's invitation to Bashir and Chadian President Idriss Deby to initial a new accord in Dakar on Wednesday.

Wade hopes the agreement will end the hostility that has often brought the two nations close to all-out war.

Their common border has become a battleground for Sudanese and Chadian rebel groups fighting both in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region and over the border in eastern Chad. Khartoum and N'Djamena accuse each other of supporting hostile insurgents.

"We want to confirm that we want peace. We have no claims in Chad," Bashir said in Dubai. "Our country is big and we do not need an extra country because any addition will mean additional problems before additional territories or resources," he added.

Bashir said he and Deby made a solemn peace commitment last year during a pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam's holiest shrine, under the auspices of Saudi King Abdullah. They shook hands on the deal inside the Kaaba, an ancient stone shrine in Mecca.

"If that agreement happened inside the Kaaba and the Chadian president did not implement it, can we expect him to implement an agreement in Dakar?" Bashir said.

Wade has announced the signing of a Chad-Sudan peace pact for Wednesday in Dakar on the eve of a summit of the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which groups the world's Muslim community. Both Chad and Sudan are members.

Sudanese Minister of State for Foreign Relations Al-Samani al-Wasiyla told Reuters in Dakar that Bashir was coming "with an open mind". But neither he nor a foreign ministry spokesman in Khartoum would confirm that Bashir would sign a deal with Deby.

Bashir said five previous agreements had been signed with Chad, brokered either by Libya or Saudi Arabia, but they had all failed to reconcile the two sides.

The hostility between the two neighbors flared again in early February when Deby said that rebels who attacked his capital N'Djamena were backed by Sudan which wanted to topple him. Khartoum denies this.

Senegal's Wade had said the peace deal would be signed on Wednesday morning in Dakar, but Sudanese officials said Bashir was expected to arrive much later in the day. Deby was expected to arrive in Dakar on Tuesday.

Sudan's al-Wasiyla said his country wanted to see the full implementation of a bilateral peace agreement signed in Libya in 2006, in which the neighbors agreed to joint patrols on their common border.

"What we expect is to agree on a vision over guarantees and a commitment to implement past agreements," he added.

Chadian Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-Mi said after meeting Wade that Chad would respect any engagements made in Dakar. "We hope that after Dakar we'll reach a definitive accord to solve the Chad-Sudan conflict," he said.

Wade has said that establishing a lasting peace between Chad and Sudan is an essential first step towards disentangling the interlocking conflicts enveloping Darfur, where 200,000 people have been killed in political and ethnic fighting since 2003.

More than 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes by the violence, which has spilled over into both Chad and Central African Republic.

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