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US Senator Kerry Expected to Meet Sudan’s Vice President Thursday

United States Senator John Kerry is expected to meet Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha and other government officials today (Thursday). Senator Kerry is however not expected to meet embattled President Omar Hassan Al- Bashir who has been indicted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court for war crimes allegedly committed in the restive Darfur region. Senator Kerry, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said he would engage Khartoum on humanitarian as well as issues pertaining to the conflict in Darfur which has killed at least 300 thousand people and scores injured since 2003. Khartoum however said that Senator Kerry's visit is a clear manifestation of the Obama administration's positive attitude towards Sudan.

Yasser Arman is a senior member of the SudanPeople's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Political Bureau. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Senator Kerry's visit would help push to the forefront implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war between the north and South.

"It is an important event and as you know Senator Kerry is a prominent figure and he is adding value after the U. S envoy came here when he presented the administration's point. Senator Kerry is adding another angle of the congress and of the legislature of the United States. And a man of his caliber coming at this critical stage to Sudan will open new doors, new avenues, and new opportunities and trying to work out resolutions of the Darfur crisis as well as implementing the CPA. He would also be trying to strengthen peace and democracy in Sudan, "Arman noted.

He said Senator Kerry's visit would have an enormous impact on the full implementation of the CPA.

"Absolutely, he would add his voice which is a strong voice to the need of implementing the CPA and honoring the commitment from the National Congress side. And he will help both parties and most importantly he would also be visiting Darfur and that would bring more focus on the issue of Darfur and the issues of the CPA. And we think his presence is of value to us (SPLM) and we encourage more visits from him and others to focus on the implementation of the CPA and the democratization and transformation of the country and the comprehensive resolution of the Darfur crisis," he said.

Arman described the Darfur humanitarian crisis as reprehensible

"First of all it is regrettable to say the least about the development of the humanitarian side especially after the expulsion of the 13 NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations). We believe the only way out from all these complications of the humanitarian situation the ICC as well as the implementation of the CPA is a serious engagement, an engagement that would bear fruit. And engagement that would be in resolving these problems and his (Senator Kerry) visit to Darfur would actually give more emphasis and more attention to the humanitarian situation and the need to resolve it amicably," Arman pointed out.

Senator Kerry's visit follows a similar visit to Khartoum of the U. S special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration who told Khartoum on his visit that Washington wanted to strengthen its ties with Sudan, but warned of an impending crisis after Sudan expelled 13 aid groups from Darfur, saying the groups had cooperated with the ICC.

Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) effectively ended what was widely described as Africa's longest war between Khartoum government and the insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Political analysts see the main obstacles to the full implementation of the 2005 CPA to be President Bashir's ruling National Congress Party's of unwillingness to embrace genuine power sharing and elections, and ultimately allow a referendum for southern self-determination after the six-year interim period.