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US Diplomat Optimistic About Sudan's Future - 2004-05-27

The U.S. State Department's chief diplomat for Africa says he's optimistic the protocols on the Sudanese civil war signed Wednesday will lead swiftly to a final, comprehensive peace package and also favorably affect the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles Snyder briefed reporters Thursday on his return from the north-south Sudanese peace talks in Kenya.

Mr. Snyder said that he believes the successful conclusion of the negotiations in Naivasha, Kenya has created a mind-set for peace in Khartoum that will hopefully mean the early implementation of the north-south accords, and action to deal with the Darfur crisis.

In a talk with reporters only hours after his return from the signing ceremony in Naivasha, Mr. Snyder said the north-south protocols are more than just high-minded principles, but a detailed blueprint for resolving Africa's longest running civil war.

He said he expects the Khartoum government and southern rebels to follow it up with an agreement by the end of the summer on details on a cease-fire, and another agreement to get the clock running on the six-year period of autonomy for the south, and an ensuing referendum on the region's political future, that are the heart of the peace plan.

The signing ceremony in Naivasha ended months of Kenyan-mediated negotiations between the Sudanese government and the SPLA southern rebel movement that were marked by numerous missed deadlines for completion.

Mr. Snyder said he believed there was "some danger" that had the accords not been signed this week, the entire Sudan peace process might have "begun to unwind."

He said Wednesday's breakthrough will begin to reverse some "very negative trends" and should give impetus to efforts to end the Darfur crisis, where one million people have been driven from their homes by Arab militiamen, backed by the Khartoum government, who are fighting local rebels.

Mr. Snyder said Sudanese authorities have been told they cannot reap the political benefits with Washington that would flow from settling the north-south conflict unless the violence in Darfur is also stopped.

"We've told you that you that you cannot move forward with us, wonderful though this agreement in Naivasha is, and it is wonderful and it is ultimately the lode-stone that will drive the whole process, but you can't get the rewards and success, we can't get the new Sudan we want, with Darfur on fire and bleeding the way it is," he said. "It has to be reversed and the answer in this day and age is as I've said elsewhere, is it has to be reversed. Ethnic-cleansing can't be allowed to stand. The people have to be gotten back on the ground they were driven off."

In welcoming Wednesday's agreements, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States looks forward to "embarking on a new relationship with a peaceful Sudan" including beginning to process of normalizing bilateral relations, but he also said Sudan will not be at peace until the problem of Darfur is resolved.

Mr. Snyder said he is optimistic of an agreement in the next day or two from the African Union in Addis Ababa that will "put some teeth" into the Darfur cease-fire accord reached last month in Chad.

He also renewed the U.S. call for immediate and unrestricted access to Darfur for humanitarian aid workers and supplies. He said he will lead the U.S. delegation to a donor's conference in Geneva next week aimed at mobilizing aid for Darfur refugees.