Another effort is underway by the United States to address the issue of slavery in Sudan. At the State Department, a team of experts is getting ready to have a first hand look at the human rights situation in the war torn country.

Since taking office last year, the Bush Administration has faced increasing pressure from Christian and human rights groups to do more to end Sudan's long running civil war, and the practice of slavery there.

Now, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell is directing a panel of outside experts to make two trips to Sudan, the first beginning next month. "[The panel will] study the issue and recommend steps that can be taken by the parties to the conflict and the international community to end such abuses. The group will include experts on Sudan from several European countries."

The United States has been mediating on-again, off-again talks to end Sudan's civil war, which has lasted for nearly two decades and claimed as many as two million lives.

Both the Muslim government in the north and rebels in the mostly Christian south have agreed to this new mission, whose members will draft recommendations to bring about an end to a practice that human rights groups say the Sudanese government refuses to address.