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Sudan's Civil War Almost Over, says Mediator - 2003-02-06

The mediator trying to end Sudan's 20 year civil war says the end of the war is near. He was speaking at the adjournment of the third round of talks between the warring parties.

Speaking at the end of two weeks of negotiations between the government of Sudan and rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, mediator Lazaro Sumbeiwyo said the end of Sudan's 20-year civil war is now within reach.

He predicted that a comprehensive peace agreement will be signed before the end of the year.

On Tuesday, the two sides agreed that monitors from countries bordering Sudan as well as the United States, Britain, Italy and Norway will be sent to Sudan to report on cease-fire violations.

Mr. Sumbeiwyo said this new agreement will give teeth to the cease-fire signed in October last year, which expires on March 31. That cease-fire has proven ineffective because there were no independent monitors on the ground to verify claims of cease-fire violations by both sides.

The mediator said there are now only a few issues left to be discussed. "It's about near the end because it's only the question of the few issues on power and the security arrangements," he said.

Rebel spokesman Samson Kwaje said he is confident that, with the monitors in place, there will be a better atmosphere at the next session. "This is important because we wasted a lot of time the last session talking about violations of the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] and fighting in Western Upper Nile, Eastern Upper Nile," said Samson Kwaje. "We hope that when we come back the next time and we adhere to this addendum, we'll have a better atmosphere of talking and we'll have more time to discuss substantial issues instead of procedural."

A senior official at the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi, Mohamed Dirdeiry, is equally pleased with the decision to send observers to monitor cease-fire violations. "We can right now say positively that the war had been stopped," he said. "I think this means peace is just around the corner. This is the first time for us to talk about stopping war since we started fighting 19 years back. It's a very big achievement. I think it's a real achievement."

In addition, participants say they made significant progress on the question of wealth sharing between northern and southern Sudan. Representatives from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund attended the talks, bringing fresh ideas on sharing assets like Sudan's new found oil wealth.

Next Wednesday, the technical committee of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development, which is organizing the talks, will meet to discuss the deployment of cease-fire monitors.

Talks between the government of Sudan and the rebels will resume on March 1.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army took up arms against the government in 1983 to fight for greater autonomy for southern Sudan. The war has killed some two million people, mainly through war related famine.