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Fresh Hopes For An End To Sudan's 18 Year Civil War - 2001-07-12

There are fresh hopes for an end to Sudan's 18-year civil war after all sides in accepted an Egyptian-Libyan peace initiative last week. Sudan's minister of foreign affairs said in Nairobi Thursday that he is waiting for Egypt and Libya to start implementing the peace plan.

Sudan's minister of foreign affairs, Mustafa Osman Ismail, says his government is fully committed to the new peace initiative.

The nine-point memorandum calls for a transitional government representing all political parties. That interim government would then organize a national conference to review Sudan's constitution.

Foreign minister Ismail says he is waiting for Egypt and Libya to start implementing the peace plan. "It depends, of course, on the sincerity and the commitment of both parties so that this will proceed forwards. The timetable for that and how quickly we are going to start the implementation, this is the responsibility of Egypt and Libya," he said. "But we are expecting soon that they might call for a meeting or anything so that we could start to discuss the implementation."

On Wednesday, United States Assistant Secretary of State, Walter Kansteiner, held talks with the leader of the main Sudanese rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA, in Nairobi.

Mr. Kansteiner said that the United States wants to become more involved in Sudan's search for peace. He said the United States intends to talk to the parties to the conflit as well as Sudan's neighbors.

Mr. Ismail says he hopes the United States can persuade the SPLA to accept a cease-fire. "We consider the United States is a very important factor or player for peaceful settlement of the problem in the south," he said. "We feel that any positive communication from the United States towards the SPLA to convince them for cease-fire for political and peaceful settlement it should be encouraged by Sudan government."

The SPLA says there can be no cease-fire unless oil production is halted. The rebels and international human rights groups accuse the Sudanese government of forcing tens of thousands of villagers to flee the oil rich south and of using oil revenue to pursue the war. However, Mr. Kansteiner says a cease-fire should not be conditioned on oil production.

Sudan's foreign minister Ismail asked for a committee under the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development to ensure that oil revenues are fairly distributed between north and south Sudan.

Sudan's war has claimed some two million lives, mainly through war-induced famine.