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SAF President to Meet Sudanese Leaders


The South African president is preparing to meet his Sudanese counterpart for two days of talks in Sudan. Discussions are expected to focus on developments in the volatile Darfur region and the thorny issue of sending U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has long resisted the idea of allowing U.N. peacekeepers to be deployed in Darfur, arguing that such a move would violate Sudan's sovereignty.

He has argued the United Nations should instead support the seven-thousand under-funded and poorly equipped African Union troops stationed in the region since 2004.

Bashir is expected to make these and other points to South African President Thabo Mbeki and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma during their two-day visit to Sudan.

Rabie Abdul Atti, a senior adviser to Sudan's information minister, explains to VOA what he expects from Mr. Mbeki's visit.

"Number one: to facilitate for the African Union all the ways that African Union will be in a position to keep peace in Darfur. The second point: I expect that Thabo Mbeki will discuss with the president [Bashir] either to avoid any problem between Sudan and United Nations and U.N. Security [Council]," said Atti. "And, number three: maybe Thabo Mbeki will discuss also the assistance which will be provided by South Africa government to Sudan in the context of achieving peace in Darfur."

Under increasing pressure from the international community, Sudan and the United Nations agreed last November on a three-phase plan to deploy a so-called hybrid force of 20,000 United Nations and African Union troops to replace the AU force.

Following talks in the Ethiopian capital, the Sudanese government on Monday agreed to begin the second phase of the plan that involves accepting financial, technical and logistical support from the United Nations as well as more troops from African countries.

The four-year-old Darfur conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced about two million more.

Involved in the fighting are Sudanese government forces, two rebel groups, and the Janjaweed militia that many say is being supported by the Sudanese government.

Fighting has accelerated in recent weeks and is spilling over into neighboring Chad.

The South African president is also expected to hold talks with First Vice President and President of South Sudan Salva Kiir.

Information minister adviser Atti says the two will likely discuss the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, that the north and south, formerly controlled by the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement, signed in early 2005.

The agreement ended more than two decades of war between north and south Sudan.

"Thabo Mbeki will go through the implementation of the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] between Sudan and SPLM [Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement], and also the differences between Salva Kiir and the government regarding any conflicting points of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement up to now," he added.

Atti says he thinks this is Mr. Mbeki's fourth visit to Sudan.