U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte is expected to arrive in the Sudanese capital Khartoum Thursday. While in Sudan, Negroponte is expected to press Sudanese officials on the continuing crisis in Darfur.

Mr. Negroponte's visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed a finding a solution to the Darfur conflict.

The deputy secretary will travel to the embattled region on Saturday.

U.S. embassy spokesperson in Khartoum, Kathryn Hoffman, told VOA Negroponte has a full itinerary.

"Mr. Negroponte will be visiting Sudan, arriving this evening, Thursday. On Saturday he will travel to the west to Darfur, to look at the situation in the region there," she said. "And on Sunday, he has a series of meetings here in Khartoum with a variety of officials from the Sudanese government."

Relations between the United States and Sudan have become increasingly strained as the Darfur conflict enters into its fifth year.

The United States has lead the call for United Nations peacekeepers in the region, where at least 200,000 people are believed to have died during a campaign of Sudan government-backed violence.

At present a 7,000 member African Union mission in the region is struggling amid chaotic violence.

This week, Sudan agreed to the second phase of the U.N.'s proposed three-phase support package for Darfur.

Phase two involves deploying some 2,200 U.N. peacekeepers backed by heavy equipment including attack helicopters.

But U.S. officials have questioned whether Sudan is simply buying time as the conflict rages on.

The United States has threatened sanctions against Sudan but on Wednesday U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios said the United States will refrain from imposing sanctions to give the U.N. more time to negotiate with Sudanese leaders.

Mr. Negroponte will also visit the southern Sudanese capital city of Juba.

Southern Sudan has undergone unprecedented development since the signing of a 2005 peace accord that ended twenty one years of civil war between the northern government and southern rebels.

In stark contrast, some 2.5 million people in Darfur are eking out a tenuous existence in camps for the displaced.