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Sudan Government Denies Violating Cease-Fire - 2002-01-25

A Sudanese government official Friday denied allegations by the country's main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA, that it is violating the terms of a cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains.

The government of Sudan insists that it is abiding by a cease-fire in the central Nuba mountains region.

Mohamed Dirdeiry, the Sudanese charge d'affairs in Nairobi, said the Sudan People's Liberation Army is making false allegations because, he says, they are against the cease-fire agreement.

"This is a figment of someone's imagination," Mr. Dirdeiry said. "This is totally incorrect. The SPLA just want to take advantage of the fact that international monitors did not arrive. The SPLA is not at all feeling that the agreement is in their favor. The SPLA feels that the time for comprehensive cease-fire has not yet come and they don't want to see at all any cease-fire in any part of Sudan. They went to the agreement because they were under pressure."

The United States-Swiss mediated cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains was reached last Saturday, January 19, in Switzerland. The Sudanese government and the SPLA agreed to stop fighting by Tuesday.

But, the SPLA says government forces attacked one of their garrisons in Tulushi Wednesday - barely 24 hours after the cease-fire came into effect.

The rebels claim six government soldiers and two rebels were killed in a one-and-a-half hour battle.

Samson Kwaje, spokesman for the SPLA, said the government is trying to capture territory before cease-fire monitors arrive. "They want to gain ground before the arrival of the international observers and monitors so that they can count that they are withdrawing from so many places so that the SPLA should also reciprocate. But this is bad faith," he said. "In general, you know the governments that have come and gone in Khartoum they always dishonor their agreements. So it is typical of their character."

Neutral, international cease-fire monitors are due to arrive on February 18. Until then, according to terms of the cease-fire, troops on both sides must stay within 500 meters of their original positions.

Mr. Kwaje of the SPLA says it is true that the rebel group will not accept a total cease-fire unless it is part of an overall political agreement granting autonomy to southern Sudan the issue for which they took up arms 18 years ago.

But Mr. Kwaje says the SPLA is in favor of limited humanitarian cease-fires and has agreed to them in the past. He says the SPLA is anxious to see relief reach the Nuba people.

The deal is supposed to open the way for humanitarian relief to reach south central Sudan.

The population of the Nuba Mountains has fallen by two-thirds since the war began in 1983. Army attacks on civilians and war-induced shortages have forced some one million people to flee the area.