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US Envoy Hopeful Sudanese Government, Rebels will Sign Peace Agreement - 2003-07-18


The U.S. special envoy to Sudan says the next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether talks between government and rebel forces will bring an end to Sudan's two decades of civil war. The envoy, former U.S. Senator John Danforth, spoke to reporters Friday in Nairobi.

President Bush named John Danforth as his special envoy to Sudan two years ago. This is the fifth time since his appointment that Mr. Danforth has visited the region.

In his remarks Friday, Mr. Danforth said he believed that the Sudanese government and the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army would soon be able to work out the details that have yet to be settled in an agreement they signed last year. But he also said the two sides must make a real commitment to peace.

"I've said to President Bush that I think this is the end game, that we are very close, that we will know very soon whether there is the prospect of peace, whether there's going to be a peace agreement," he said. "And if there isn't, as his representative, I don't know what else I can do."

The agreement signed last year exempted the non-Muslim regions of Sudan, most of which are in the south of the country, from Islamic law. The so-called Machakos Protocol, named after the town in Kenya where the protocol was reached, also allowed the south a referendum on possible independence.

But the two sides still need to agree on how they will share wealth and power, and on whether Sudan's capital, Khartoum, will be ruled by Islamic law.

Mr. Danforth said the outstanding issues that remain can be settled, if both sides make the effort.

"It's not enough simply to make verbal statements," said Mr. Danforth. "If each side truly, in good faith, seeks peace, and if each side negotiates in good faith, then these remaining issues can be resolved in, I think, a very short period of time."

The peace talks are set to resume July 23.

It is estimated that Sudan's two decades of civil war have led to the deaths of at least two million people.

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