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Sudan Peace Talks to Resume Next Week

The special U.S. envoy for Sudan says the next three months of talks are particularly important to efforts to end Africa's longest-running civil war. Katy Salmon reports from Nairobi, talks were supposed to start on Wednesday but the Sudanese government refused to attend.

The U.S. special envoy John Danforth was in Khartoum on Thursday, where he helped convince the Sudanese government to resume peace talks with the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. He told reporters the next three months of talks are "very crucial."

Mr. Danforth complains that no progress has been made since October and that the talks have now stalled. He has previously warned that Washington may stop supporting the Sudanese peace talks if a settlement is not reached within six months.

The U.S. special envoy flew to Kenya this week hoping to attend the third round of peace talks, but they were cancelled because the Sudanese government refused to attend. Sudanese officials said they did not want to discuss the status of three disputed areas until other issues are settled.

Now, Sudan has agreed to resume talks next Wednesday.

In three months, President Bush will report to Congress on progress towards ending Sudan's 20 year civil war. If the United States believes Sudan's government is not negotiating in good faith, it could face sanctions.

This is part of the Sudan Peace Act, which President Bush signed in October.

International pressure is an important factor pushing Sudan's warring parties to find a peaceful resolution to their differences. The SPLA took up arms against the government in Khartoum in 1983 to fight for greater autonomy for the south.

An outline for greater autonomy has now been agreed to, in principle, but the talks have broken down because of the disagreement over the three areas.

The two sides made significant progress towards ending Africa's longest running conflict last year. The government of Sudan and the SPLA rebels signed a cease-fire, which expires in March. But further progress has been difficult.