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Sudan's Conflict in Danger Of Affecting Region, Official Says - 2002-06-20


A senior Sudanese government official is warning of war, famine, and disaster throughout Africa if Sudanese peace negotiations that resumed this week should fail.

Sudan's presidential peace adviser said that without a breakthrough in peace negotiations aimed at ending Sudan's long civil war. "The conflict could degenerate rapidly, spilling over Sudan's borders and threatening the whole region with an ever widening cycle of death and destruction," he said.

The Sudanese official, Ghazi Salah al-Din, suggested in Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper Thursday that if southern Sudan is allowed to secede from the north, it would encourage secessionist movements in other African countries. He said, "war, famine and disaster would follow across the continent as surely as night follows day."

Talks aimed at ending Sudan's 19-year civil war are underway in neighboring Kenya between the Islamist Khartoum government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, SPLA. The SPLA is seeking greater autonomy for the mainly Christian south.

The definition of what is southern Sudan and the question of state and religion appear to be the main stumbling blocks to a reaching a consensus on self-determination for the south.

The war has cost an estimated two million lives since it began in 1983.

The talks, which got underway Monday in Nairobi, are the first real effort at achieving peace in more than a year and are being conducted by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD.

Last August, President Bush appointed a special envoy to Sudan to explore whether the United States could play a role in a Sudanese peace process. Since then, the United States has said its continued effort in Sudan is contingent on, among other things, an end to Sudanese government military attacks against civilians, the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to affected areas, and an end to the practice of taking prisoners for the purpose of slavery.

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