Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent the day Thursday in Sudan as part of a tour of Africa and the Middle East. During her visit, Ms. Rice urged Sudanese officials to improve the situation in Darfur, and reiterated U.S. support for the country's recently signed north-south peace deal. The visit was briefly marred by an incident involving Sudanese guards and U.S. officials and reporters traveling with the secretary.
Secretary of State Rice spent some of her day-long trip to Sudan touring the Abu Shouk refugee camp in the volatile Darfur region.
There, she spoke with some of the 70,000 or so camp residents who had fled their homes during the two-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about two million more.
She had scheduled meetings with the governor of North Darfur State, international aid workers, and a coalition of Rwandan troops who are being airlifted into Darfur by U.S. cargo planes as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Rice held discussions in the capital Khartoum with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and other officials at his residence.
Ms. Rice said she told the Sudanese government officials they had a credibility problem with the international community because of Darfur. She said "actions not words" were needed to speed the normalization of relations.
A senior advisor to Ms. Rice, Jim Wilkinson, said Sudanese officials repeatedly asked the secretary of state to lift international sanctions on Sudan, but that she gave them no promises.
The U.S. government has called the Darfur conflict genocide. The Sudanese government is charged with arming Arab militias to crush a 2003 uprising in the western region. The government denies the allegations.
Ms. Rice's visit with Mr. el-Bashir was marred by scuffles between Sudanese guards and U.S. officials and reporters accompanying the Secretary of State on her tour. Foreign Affairs Minister Mustafa Ismail telephoned an angry Ms. Rice later in the day to apologize.
During her earlier meetings, Ms. Rice had congratulated Sudanese officials for the January signing of a peace agreement that ended the country's 21-year civil war between the northern-based government and the south's main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army.
Sudan's interim constitution was officially signed July 9 at a ceremony in Khartoum.
Former rebel leader John Garang was sworn in as Sudan's new vice president. Mr. Garang's inauguration marked the first time in more than two decades that he had traveled to northern Sudan.
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick attended the July 9 event.
In April, Mr. Zoellick announced the United States would pledge nearly $2 billion to rebuild the nation, following the signing of the peace agreement. But he stressed that the funds would be provided on the condition that the situation in Darfur be improved.
The new constitution is not intended to be permanent. In six years southern Sudanese will vote to decide if they wish to remain united with the north or secede and form an independent nation.