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Powell to Visit Kenya to Boost Sudan Peace Talks - 2003-10-20

Secretary of State Colin Powell flies from Bangkok to Nairobi Tuesday to meet senior Kenyan officials and to encourage progress at Kenyan-sponsored talks aimed at ending the two decade old civil conflict in Sudan.

Administration officials are providing few details of Mr. Powell's Kenya visit, citing security concerns. But they say he will meet there with the two sides in the Sudan peace talks to try to give a boost to their efforts to complete a peace agreement ending Africa's longest running civil conflict.

The peace talks reconvened last Friday outside Nairobi, amid reports that the Islamic government in Khartoum and southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army were close to a final deal on ways to share power and divide the country's growing oil wealth.

The Bush administration made the search for peace in Sudan one of its foreign policy priorities, naming former U.S. Senator John Danforth a special envoy for Sudan in 2001.

Senior administration officials, including Mr. Danforth and Secretary Powell, have since met regularly with representatives of both sides, who have agreed on a framework providing for six years of autonomy for the mainly Christian and animist south to be followed by a referendum on the region's political future.

Mr. Powell will also hold talks with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and other top officials of the Nairobi government in a follow up to Mr. Kibaki's state visit to Washington earlier this month, during which the war on terrorism was a key subject.

Kenya's economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and has been hit hard by travel advisories posted by the United States and other countries alerting their citizens to terrorist threats in that country.

Kenyan officials have pressed for the lifting of the U.S. warning, which urges Americans to defer non-essential travel to Kenya.

But a senior U.S. diplomat, who spoke to reporters in Bangkok, said the State Department advisory reflects the problematic security environment that exists in Kenya, and that many other countries are affected by similar warnings.

A car bomb attack aimed at Israeli tourists killed 14 people at a resort hotel in the Kenyan seaport of Mombasa last November in an incident that coincided with an attempt to down an Israeli airliner with shoulder-fired missiles.

The U.S. travel advisory, renewed late last month, said the U.S. government continues to receive indications of terrorist threats in east Africa that might include attacks on civil aviation, and said the government of Kenya "might not be able to prevent such attacks."