The U.S. embassy in Sudan is warning of a threat by Islamist extremists to attack the Sudanese government as well as "Western interests."  

A statement on the U.S. embassy website warned that a post on a radical Islamist website threatened an attack on the Sudanese government.  It indicated the threat is related to the recent death of a suspected Islamic extremist.

The statement provided few details of the threat, but warned that calls for violence against the government as well as "Western interests" could also be made during prayers on Friday, and urged Americans in Sudan to exercise caution.

US terrorism list

Sudan has been on the U.S. government's list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993.  Sudanese officials have been pushing Washington to remove Sudan from the list in recent years, as the country has cooperated in sharing intelligence as part of the war on terror.  The United States says terrorists remain active in the country.

Meanwhile, political leaders from Sudan's two main parties, the northern National Congress Party and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement, have been meeting in Washington to discuss the fragile 2005 peace agreement, with the mediation of the U.S. envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration.

Tuesday, representatives of 20 countries, as well as a dozen international organizations held a forum on the agreement.

Avoid another war

American Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg highlighted the importance of avoiding a return to the 22-year north-south war, which killed an estimated 1.5 million people.

"That legacy of loss provides a reminder of the promise that this agreement represents, but also its stakes for the future as we try to make sure that this tragedy does not happen again.  It is a young peace and it is much younger than the fight that it ended, but we have to make sure that it becomes a much more long-lived one," he said.

Steinberg noted that the agreement will soon face a number of crucial tests, including national elections set for February.

"But we also recognize that we are facing some very important milestones in the near future, which will determine the path of the future. And they will set the foundation, for better or for worse, of the very future of Sudan and for the region as a whole. And therefore the stakes are enormous and the importance of really focusing our efforts now in making sure that these processes as they go forward are fair, open, transparent, and are consistent with the spirit that brought about the CPA in the first place," he added.

Elections postponed

Elections had originally been set for this July, but were postponed due to lack of preparations.  But many observers worry continued disputes between the two sides will prevent a fair poll from being organized.  The south is to vote on whether to secede from the north in a 2011 referendum.

The participants at the forum also stressed the importance of abiding by an arbitration court's decision on the boundaries of the disputed Abyei area.  The area, along the north-south border, contains much of Sudan's oil, the most important contributor to the wealth of both north and south Sudan.

The area has been the source of some of the greatest instability since the 2005 agreement, including clashes last year that displaced 50,000 people and razed much of Abyei town to the ground.  The court, based in the Hague, is expected to deliver its decision next month.