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Sudan Moves Closer to Peace - 2002-10-15

Sudanese rebels and government officials have signed a temporary cease-fire, which will be in effect during peace talks in the coming weeks. It is the first time in 19 years of civil war that there has been such a cease-fire.

The spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army rebel movement, Samson Kwaje, said the rebels have signed an agreement with the government of Sudan. The agreement promises to cease all hostilities while peace talks are in progress in the Kenyan town of Machakos.

"The parties have agreed to maintain a period of tranquility during the negotiations by ceasing hostilities in all areas of the Sudan and ensuring a military stand-down for their own forces including allied forces and affiliated militia," Mr. Kwaje said.

Mr. Kwaje said the cease-fire go into effect at midday Thursday. "They will just remain where they are and we hope there will be good will on either side. As of now we are already instructing our forces that come Thursday mid-day there will be complete cessation of hostilities," he said.

The government of Sudan made a temporary cease-fire a condition for resumption of the negotiations after it walked out of the talks last month when rebel forces captured a key town.

The current round of negotiations is expected to last five weeks.

The rebel spokesman says that under the terms of the cease-fire agreement no convoys are to travel without prior notification to the other party.

Any problems with the cease-fire will be referred to the international mediators.

Hopes for peace in Sudan are higher than they have been for many years, following the signing of a ground-breaking agreement in Machakos in July.

In that document, the government of Sudan offered southern Sudan a referendum on independence after a six-year interim period, and exempted it from Islamic Sharia law, key issues for the rebels.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army took up arms against the Sudanese government in 1983. About two million people have since died in the conflict, mainly from war related famine.