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Sudanese Parties Agree to Extend Cease-Fire for 3 Months - 2003-06-30

The Sudanese government and southern-based rebels have agreed to renew a cease-fire in the south for another three months.

This marks the third time in the past eight months that the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army have extended the cessation of hostilities agreement they signed last October.

A statement says the agreement creates what the parties call a conducive atmosphere for their ongoing peace talks in neighboring Kenya. The two parties first signed the agreement last October, during the latest series of negotiations aimed at ending the conflict.

The next round of talks is expected to resume this week. Topping the agenda will be how the two sides will share wealth and power in a post-war Sudan.

The talks have been going on since the middle of last year. The goal is to end 20 years of war during which an estimated two million people have died, mainly through war-induced famine and disease.

The war pits the largely Muslim north against the south, whose people follow Christianity or traditional African religions.

In addition to religious differences, the war also involves struggles over land and wealth primarily from Sudan's rich oil fields, which are mostly located in the south.

It was two decades ago that the current phase of the civil war broke out, when rebels in the south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim northern government in a bid to gain greater autonomy for the largely Christian and animist south.