Sudan opposition to VP: we don’t see anything new in dialogue call
Sudan's opposition on Wednesday rejected a call by the country's most powerful vice president for them to join the government in making a new constitution.
The invitation by Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who also reached out to rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, came as tension eases with neighbouring South Sudan.
Taha suggested that as relations with the South improve there is a less restrictive political atmosphere within Sudan, where opposition figures have been jailed.
His call for dialogue came at a news conference on Tuesday.
"We don't see anything new in that. It is the same line," said Farouk Abu Issa, who heads the opposition alliance of more than 20 parties.
Bashir Adam Rahma, foreign relations secretary of the Popular Congress opposition party, said the government "junta" has a history of calling for dialogue "on their own terms."
Sudan needs a new constitution to replace the 2005 document based on a peace agreement which ended a 23-year civil war and led to South Sudan's separation in July 2011.
Singling out the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) chairman and his deputy, Taha called on "opposition parties and Malik Agar and Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu to take part in writing the new constitution".
Neither Agar nor the rebel movement's spokesman could be reached on Wednesday.
South Sudan armed and trained SPLM-N when it was part of the south's rebel force but says it cut military ties before the South's independence.
Khartoum's accusation that the South continued to back SPLM-N after fighting began two years ago in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states was the major impediment to improved bilateral relations.
The United Nations and the African Union have for months called on the insurgents and Khartoum to reach a negotiated settlement but a potential way forward emerged only after Sudan and South Sudan early this month finally reached a deal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
They settled on detailed timetables to ease tensions, after months of intermittent border clashes, by resuming economically vital oil flows and implementing other key pacts including a demilitarised border zone designed to cut cross-border rebel support.
War in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has forced more than 200,000 people to flee as refugees while affecting an estimated one million more inside the two states.
Issa, the opposition leader, said rebels should be part of the constitutional dialogue but the process should not be led by the 23-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir and his National Congress Party.
Rahma, of Popular Congress, said the opposition wants to be part of a "transitional administration" which would include rebels and the National Congress.
"Then that government will lead the dialogue," Rahma said.
Popular Congress is headed by Hassan al-Turabi. He was a key figure behind the 1989 coup which brought Bashir's regime to power but later broke with him.
Taha said he held talks in Germany with Turabi's deputy on how the country can move ahead, but Rahma called that meeting strictly a social visit.
Taha said he is confident the timetables with South Sudan will be implemented, while the deals have already eased tensions within Sudan.
"The political climate is better," the vice president said.
His appeal to the SPLM-N leadership is "in a way a recognition that there is a possibility to sit down and talk to them", said Safwat Fanous, a University of Khartoum political scientist.
But it is premature to expect a political settlement to the war, he said.
Taha was simply responding to international pressure and President Bashir will not accept it, said Farouk Mohammed Ibrahim, of the Sudanese Organisation for Defence of Rights and Freedoms, a group of activists.
"So we don't think that peace announcement means anything," Ibrahim said, calling for an Arab Spring-style uprising to topple the regime.