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US Envoy Draws Up Sudan Peace Proposals - 2001-11-17

The United States special envoy to Sudan says he has drawn up four proposals for peace to encourage Sudan's government and rebels to end their 18-year civil war.

The U.S. special envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, is giving the government in Khartoum and rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army until January to comply with his four proposals. If they do so, he says, this will provide a starting point for a peace process which is "long overdue."

Mr. Danforth has just returned from a visit to Sudan's Nuba Mountains, where he witnessed the first food relief distribution in decades. A U.S. brokered agreement was reached last week for a four-week break in fighting to allow humanitarian assistance to reach the war-battered Nuba population.

One of Mr. Danforth's proposals is for this access to the Nuba Mountains to be extended indefinitely. He said he also wants the creation what he calls "zones of tranquillity," where people can get humanitarian assistance, such as vaccinations, without fear of attack. And, he called for an end to the bombing of civilians and the taking of slaves.

Mr. Danforth says he hopes the warring parties in Sudan will recognize how senseless the war is. "I wouldn't bet much on this. They've been at it for a long long time and there is a great deal of distrust between the parties," he said. "On the other hand, what is this fighting accomplishing? Who is it helping? What is the plus side for anybody for having a war that goes on not just for 18 years but for 18 more years, because there's no reason why it couldn't go on indefinitely? What political interest gets satisfaction while people in misery huddle together in camps? Who is pleased with that?"

Mr. Danforth said he will recommend to President Bush that his mission be ended if Sudan's government and the rebels do not comply with his proposals by the time he makes his next visit in January. "We have put forward some ideas which test the good faith of the parties. And they can respond to that test "yes" or "no." And they'll respond by their actions, not by their words," he said. "And if the response is "no," then I don't see anything more the U.S. can do. I don't think we should engaged in having people flying round the countryside month after month on a wild goose-chase."

Observers say it is not realistic to hope for rapid progress towards peace in Sudan, where generations have known nothing but war and distrust runs deep.