Khartoum: Talks to resolve a standoff in Sudan's national coalition government adjourned on Thursday without agreement, prolonging the crisis threatening a fragile peace agreement that ended two decades of war.
The former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) suspended its work in government last week after months of stalemate on implementing key elements of the 2005 deal.
After three and a half hours of talks, SPLM Chairman and First Vice-President, Salva Kiir, left his first meeting with President Omar Al Bashir since the crisis began, with officials saying discussions would continue.
SPLM officials would not yet return to work, they said. "There was agreement to complete discussions on the outstanding problems in the deal," presidential spokesman Mahjoub Fadul said after the meeting in Khartoum. He did not specify when the talks might resume.
SPLM has given Al Bashir's party until January 9, the third anniversary of the landmark peace deal, to show progress on outstanding issues. The conflict, Africa's longest, cost two million lives and more than four million people were driven from their homes.
SPLM Deputy Secretary-General Yasir Arman told Reuters Kiir and Al Bashir had discussed outstanding elements of the peace deal.
These include redeployment of northern troops from southern oil fields, mapping the borders of the oil-rich Abyei region, demarcating the north-south boundary and the fate of hundreds of political prisoners being held in northern jails.
"The ministers will go back to work when the chairman of SPLM has finished his talks and instructs them to go."
After a late meeting of SPLM leaders in Khartoum, Arman said Kiir would travel to south Sudan's capital Juba yesterday.
"The talks will resume very soon and the first Vice-President is optimistic," Arman said.
He said the SPLM leadership agreed progress was needed on both outstanding issues in the peace deal and a long-delayed cabinet reshuffle before SPLM would rejoin government.
Al Bashir granted one SPLM demand on Wednesday by announcing a reshuffle of SPLM ministers, which make up a quarter of the cabinet, after three months of stalling.
But SPLM officials said the reshuffle was announced prematurely and two presidential advisors had not been appointed as requested.
Fadul said SPLM and Al Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) had agreed the ministers would be sworn in without giving a date.
But Arman said discussions on the reshuffle would follow talks on the stalled peace deal. The SPLM move has the support of many southerners.
"The walkout must continue until the NCP demonstrates that it is willing to move forward in one or two more points," said the independent daily Khartoum Monitor in an editorial, under the headline 'Bravo SPLM'.