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Mediator Confident Sudan Peace Can Be Negotiated - 2002-09-03

The Kenyan mediator trying to end Sudan's 19-year civil war say they are confident peace in Sudan can be negotiated, despite of the collapse of negotiations on Monday. Chief mediator General Lazaro Sumbeiywo says he remains optimistic about bringing an end to Sudan's civil war.

"Well we have gone through nearly most of the issues so I do not see a reason why I can not be very confident [with] that 75 percent," he said. "I mean we have nearly everything on the table. They have never gone this far before in any negotiations so that is why I am very optimistic with 75 percent."

General Sumbeiywo says the talks broke down because of circumstances beyond the negotiating table.

On Monday, Sudanese President Omar el Bashir ordered the government negotiating team to leave the peace talks, following the rebels' capture of the strategic town of Torit the previous day. The Sudanese government said the rebels' continuing offensive had spoiled the atmosphere of the talks. It has repeatedly called for a cease-fire.

The rebels say that they were only responding to government provocation and insist that there can be no cease-fire until all issues are settled.

But General Sumbeiywo, head of the regional Inter Governmental Authority on Development team, which is mediating the talks, says he believes both sides are determined to continue with the peace talks.

"It should be noted that the current break in the talks does not signal an end to the Sudan peace process under the IGAD initiative," he said. "Both the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, Army, have explicitly confirmed their commitment to the IGAD peace process and the Machakos Protocol of 20 July 2002."

In the Machakos Protocol, the two sides agreed that southern Sudan will be exempted from Islamic Sharia law and will be allowed to vote for independence after a six-year interim period.

General Sumbeiywo says the mediation team will consult with the parties to set a date for the resumption of talks in the near future.