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US Envoy Seeks to Expand Sudan Peace Agreements - 2002-07-18

U.S. special envoy for peace in Sudan, John Danforth, was in Bern Thursday to discuss with Swiss officials the follow-up to the cease-fire agreement in Sudan's central Nuba Mountains Region. Switzerland hosted talks earlier this year and successfully worked alongside the United States to broker the agreement. Both countries say they are coordinating efforts to aid Sudan peace talks in Nairobi.

Former Senator John Danforth says he is meeting with the United States' peace partners in Europe to agree on a single approach to help secure peace in Sudan. Political analysts say a coordinated diplomatic approach is needed to help the Sudanese government and rebel forces of the Sudan People's Liberation Army achieve peace. The two sides have been at war for 19 years, during which two million people have died.

Mr. Danforth called the Nuba Mountains agreement a "great success." He says the cease-fire has saved lives and enabled badly needed humanitarian aid into the region, while fighting has raged in other parts of the country.

But he says that peace talks underway in Kenya are not aimed at creating a series of "mini-regional" cease-fire agreements, like the Nuba Mountains accord, but a comprehensive peace settlement for the entire country.

"The Nuba Mountains agreement has become a model not of what can be done in other regions so much as what the entire country could look like," he said.

Mr. Danforth says the agreement has given the Sudanese a taste of what peace means and he adds there is a growing realization that the war is at a standstill and further conflict will do nothing to change the status quo. Mr. Danforth also notes Sudan has significant resources, especially oil, that would benefit north and south if the fighting ends. And the special envoy lists another powerful incentive for peace.

"With respect to the people in the south who have real grievances and who feel that they have been victims for a long period of time, [it is] the opportunity to treat them as human beings, and to be treated as human beings, and fully respected for their religion, and their culture and their race," he said.

Political analysts say the peace talks in Kenya are taking place as Sudan's civil war has entered a crucial stage. They say Khartoum is using oil revenues to purchase more lethal weapons and expanding air attacks on civilians, while the rebels with larger numbers of fighters are also acquiring more sophisticated arms.