President Bush's special envoy for Sudan, John Danforth, returns to the region in a few days for talks aimed at boosting Kenyan-led mediation efforts between the Sudanese government and southern rebels. The State Department the Sudan peace talks are due to resume in Kenya next week.
Mr. Danforth, a former U.S. Senator, will visit Sudan, Kenya, Eritrea and possibly other states in the region for political consultations before the scheduled resumption of the Sudanese peace talks in Kenya January 15.
Confirmation of the Danforth mission came from State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, who said the Bush administration is trying to support Sudanese peace process in every way it can. "We had a group of Sudanese participants in the talks here last month, so we are doing everything we can to try to prepare constructively for the resumption of discussions between the Sudanese parties in Kenya," Mr. Boucher said.
Mr. Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned the new Kenyan Foreign Minister, Kalonzo Musyoka, to discuss the Sudanese peace process, among other issues.
Kenya has taken the lead in the mediation effort on behalf of the East African regional group IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
In the talks in Washington last month, U.S. diplomats and private experts met informally with delegates from the Sudanese government and rebel movement in so-called "workshops" on key issues in the negotiations, including power-sharing and the joint use of Sudan's oil wealth.
In talks in Machakos, Kenya last July, the Muslim government in Khartoum and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, the SPLA reached a ground-breaking protocol agreement giving the mainly-Christian and animist south a six-year period of self rule. That would be followed by a referendum on the region's political future.
A further round of talks, which ended in November, extended a cease-fire and provisions for humanitarian access to contested areas, and further refined the terms of the July accord.
The Sudan conflict, which began in 1983, has killed an estimated 1.5 million people in the fighting and related famine, and displaced millions more.