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Sudanese Government, Rebels Confident US Will Not Impose Sanctions - 2004-04-20


Sudanese government and rebel officials involved in the Sudanese peace talks in Nairobi said that they are confident the United States will not impose sanctions on the Sudanese government or rebels, as may be required under U.S. law.

On the eve of the U.S. government's review of the long-running talks between the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), officials on both sides indicated they are sure no punitive actions against the two will be taken.

Under the Sudan Peace Act, President Bush is required every six months to judge whether the Sudanese government and the southern-based rebels are negotiating in good faith to end their 21-year-old war. The conflict has killed an estimated one-million people and has displaced many more.

If one or both parties are judged not to be negotiating in good faith, the United States can impose sanctions or other punishments against one or both of the parties.

President Bush's next examination is due to take place Wednesday, April 21st.

The Sudanese ambassador to Nairobi, Ali Abdelrahman Nimeri, told VOA that he thinks the United States will have no basis for taking punitive actions against the Sudanese government.

"There will be no chance, because this act is supposed to be implemented," he said. "If there was no peace agreement signed, and (the) peace agreement is in process within two, three days, four days. We are negotiating in good faith."

A spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army, Yassir Arman, likewise insists his group has been negotiating in good faith in accordance with the terms of the act.

"The SPLA have done nothing," he said. "It is (an) aggrieved party. On the contrary, we have been looking for peace, and we did everything to reach peace."

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who is hosting the talks, said that he does not want to speculate what the U.S. government might or might not do.

However, he noted the last remaining sticking points in the negotiations, which include whether traditional Islamic law should be used in the country's capital, Khartoum, will be ironed out soon.

The U.S. government has sent numerous envoys to the talks during the past year to try to encourage the government and rebels to sign a peace agreement within particular deadlines.

One of the latest envoys, Deputy Assistant for African Affairs Charles Snyder, told reporters recently the United States is concerned that the talks, which have been taking place in Kenya for about a year and a half, are making little progress. "It has been a growing concern of ours that these talks are dragging on too long, when both sides know very well what the answers are, what range within which the answers are to be found," he said.

Mr. Snyder had said Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and rebel leader John Garang had assured him they would sign a framework agreement by Easter Sunday.

They did not sign, and Mr. Taha left Kenya.

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