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Sudan Breaks Off Peace Talks with Rebels - 2002-09-02

The Sudanese government has broken off peace talks with southern rebels aimed at ending the country's 19 year civil war. The suspension follows the rebels' capture of the strategically important town of Torit.

Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters in Cairo the government of Sudan is suspending peace talks with the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army to protest their military actions.

Mr. Ismail accused the rebels of trying to impose conditions through military operations.

The rebels captured the garrison town of Torit in Eastern Equatoria on Sunday. The town controls one of the main roads to government-held Juba, Sudan's southern capital.

The government of Sudan has sent large numbers of troops to Juba in an attempt to recapture Torit.

Earlier at the peace talks in the Kenyan town of Machakos, rebel spokesman Samson Kwaje told VOA the seizure of Torit should not affect the peace process, "because why should it, even Machakos? One, they took Gogrial while we were talking and we did not do anything. We did not walk out. We did not pull out, so I do not see why the taking of Torit should endanger the talks," said Mr. Kwaje.

The suspension of peace talks follows some recent successes. In July, the government and the rebels signed a groundbreaking agreement in which the government accepted the South's right to secede through a referendum, and to be exempted from Islamic law.

Those are two of the main issues that led the SPLA to start its uprising in 1983. Two million Sudanese have since died, mainly from war related famine. Humanitarian organizations say the current fierce fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing.