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Sudan Government, Rebels to Sign at Least Partial Cease-Fire - 2002-10-10

The Sudanese government and rebels are planning to sign at least a partial cease-fire agreement when peace talks reopen in Kenya next week.

A senior official at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi told VOA the government hopes to sign a cease-fire with rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army on Monday. The Sudanese charge d'affaires, Mohamed Dirdeiry, said once that is done, they will resume talks aimed at ending their 19-year civil war.

A rebel spokesman has also said the group is willing to agree to a cease-fire.

Fighting has continued during previous rounds of the peace talks, which are taking place in the Kenyan town of Machakos, under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

The Sudanese government broke off the talks last month after the rebels captured the strategically important southern garrison town of Torit. The government recaptured Torit on Tuesday, after two weeks of heavy fighting.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told a victory rally that peace talks could resume. But he said a cease-fire would not apply to areas of eastern Sudan that were recently taken by rebel forces.

Rebel spokesman Samson Kwaje told VOA the exact terms of a cease-fire have not been agreed to. He says the areas to be included will be decided on Monday.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill to sanction Sudan if its government does not negotiate in good faith with the rebels. President Bashir said he was not shaken by such threats.

Hopes for peace in Sudan have been raised following the breakthrough made at the first round of Machakos talks in July. At that time, the government agreed that the south could hold a referendum on secession after a six-year interim period, and could be exempted from Islamic Sharia law. Those are both key issues for the rebels.

About two million people have died in what is Africa's longest-running conflict, mostly through war-related famine.