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South Sudan President to Sign Revised Power-sharing Deal

FILE - In this file photo dated June 21, 2018, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left, and opposition leader Riek Machar, right, shake hands during peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said Friday he plans to sign a final power-sharing deal with rebels and other opposition groups intended to end the country's nearly five-year civil war.

Earlier, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mohamed Al Dirdiri arrived in Juba to discuss what he called "bilateral issues" with Kiir and South Sudanese Foreign Minister Nhial Deng Nhial.

Al-Dirdiri, the chief mediator of the ongoing peace talks, told VOA's South Sudan in Focus he expects all parties to sign an agreement in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, on Sunday.

Most of South Sudan's warring parties signed a preliminary power-sharing deal late last month which would reinstate rebel leader Riek Machar as first vice president. But some opposition groups rejected the agreement.

After speaking to al-Dirdiri on Friday, Kiir told journalists he is ready to sign a power-sharing deal with all opposition parties and this time believes it will be upheld.

"I believe that this agreement will continue to be implemented with spirit and letter. And so whoever signs this agreement will remain committed to it and this is what will be surprising the whole world," said Kiir.

The president said he made some compromises with opposition groups because he wants the agreement to hold. He said he has no reservations about the Khartoum agreement, unlike the peace deal he signed in 2015 that "was forced on us," he said Friday.

While insisting he is fully committed to implementing a new deal, the president acknowledged the huge challenges that lie ahead for his government, including how to manage a planned 550 lawmakers, 35 ministries, and five vice presidents.

"One person needs [a] motorcade, maybe five vehicles. Where will I get this quickly? They also need accommodation. Where will I accommodate them. Also they need offices to work. Where will I get offices? So there are many things needed to be accomplished before these people enter Juba here," Kiir said.

One possible holdout

One armed opposition group, the National Salvation Front, led by Thomas Cirillo Swaka, said it will not sign a peace deal that fails to guarantee a federal system of governance in South Sudan.

The group's information secretary, Jalphan Samson, said if arguments over the number of states or holding a referendum are not resolved, his group will refuse to sign the deal.

"We don't want to cheat ourselves and we don't want to cheat our people ... If the thing is solved before the signing, we will sign but if there is something, we will not sign with reservations because if I sign with reservations, that means I did not agree on that," Samson told VOA.

He said the National Salvation Front believes South Sudan's future transitional government should revert back to the original 10 states instead of the current 32, which he calls unconstitutional.

Samson also said the federal system of governance should be introduced immediately during the transitional period, allowing everyone to have a voice in government.

"Our position is we want every individual South Sudanese must get his right in this agreement. That is why we don't want to make agreement and others feel that they are betrayed," Samson said.