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Sudan's President Discusses Civil War with Mubarak - 2002-05-15

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is in Cairo Wednesday for meetings with Egyptian President Mubarak. Topping the agenda for discussion include peace efforts aimed at ending Sudan's long-running civil war.

While the two leaders are expected to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as relations between Sudan and Egypt, Sudanese government officials say the major purpose of the meeting is to review the latest efforts being made to end Sudan's decades old civil war.

Analysts say the main prospect for peace is a plan that has the backing of the United States. The plan, proposed by the U.S. special envoy for Sudan, John Danforth, calls for the Sudanese government to share oil revenue with the rebels, known as the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.

The military government in Khartoum is dominated by Muslim Arabs from the north. The rebels of the SPLA are largely black Christians. They say they want democracy and secular government for the whole of Sudan, but the government fears they are seeking secession, something the government is not likely to grant. The southern part of the country is rich in oil deposits.

Sudan's ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Abdel Haleem, told VOA his government fully recognizes the need to share oil revenue if Sudan is to eventually unify. "Of course, the government is ready to direct some of the proceeds of the oil to the south. As a matter of fact," continued Ambassador Haleem, "it's going to be rather generous because we have to rehabilitate, we have to redevelop. We have to sustain life there. We have to re-institute some of the services that have been destroyed by the war."

The ambassador praised U.S. efforts to end a war that has claimed as many as two million lives in almost 20 years of fighting. Mr. Haleem said, "The U.S. is not coming to Sudan with a new initiative." Instead, he says, "it is acting as catalyst for peace within the framework of the ongoing initiatives being pushed by Egypt and Libya."

Mr. Danforth, who has made two visits to Sudan since being appointed special envoy, is calling for international monitoring of religious freedom in southern Sudan.

He recommended to President Bush this week that "despite many obstacles, the U.S. continue to serve as an intermediary between the parties pursuing peace." However, he also advised the president the United States should re-think its participation if the government and the rebels fail to abide by agreements to minimize civilian casualties.