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US Pushing for Resumption of Sudan Peace Talks  - 2004-09-24

A few months ago, Sudan was on the verge of ending a 21-year civil war, but the final details of the peace accord got bogged down as the world's attention turned to the violence in the country's western Darfur region. Now, the senior U.S. representative to the Sudan talks wants to get the process moving again, saying an agreement could provide a blueprint for resolving the crisis in Darfur.

The U.S. official, Charles Snyder, says it is more important than ever to end Sudan's civil war, which he says will help end the fighting and suffering in Darfur. The talks he is mediating involve the Sudanese government and southern rebels. But Mr. Snyder says the settlement that is nearly finalized will provide a framework to resolve Sudan's western rebel conflict, and to address the Darfur crisis.

"Don't forget the southern civil war killed 2.2 million people. And we needed to end that. They were the major armed combatants, the north and south," he noted. "But all of us from the very beginning including the parties were conscious that what they were negotiating was meant to be broader than that. This is meant to be a transformation of the government, including three years into the period, elections, at which time everybody will get to see what their relative power is, not from the barrel of a gun, presumably, but through the ballot box."

Four months ago, hundreds applauded and cheered in the Kenyan town of Naivasha as the Khartoum government and the country's main rebel group in the south, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed a power and wealth-sharing agreement. But key details remain to be worked out before the accord can be implemented.

But analysts say the continuing violence in Darfur has eroded the credibility of the Sudanese government, which so far has not fulfilled international demands to rein in the Arab "Janjaweed" militias. The militias, which the government armed, are blamed for most of the violence and human rights abuses in Darfur.

The U.N. Security Council has called on Sudan to control the militias and resolve the Darfur crisis, which has killed as many as 50,000 people, mainly black Africans, and displaced more than one million. And Mr. Snyder says Sudan is not doing the job.

"We're not satisfied with the progress on the security front and the reining in of the Janjaweed," he added. "And I don't think any of us will be satisfied until we see a few more eyes on the ground telling us that things have changed."

Peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, between the Sudanese government and western rebel groups, in the Darfur area, failed earlier this month, but are scheduled to resume next month.

What is supposed to be the final round of talks between the Sudanese government and the southern rebels begins October 7 in Naivasha.