Sudan Considers Regional Cease Fire
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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ U.S. and Swiss-mediated talks between the Sudanese government and southern rebels next week will concentrate only on a regional cease-fire and not a comprehensive peace, a rebel spokesman said Sunday.
Samson Kwaje, spokesman for the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, tried to downplay the significance of the negotiations, set to begin sometime later this week in a yet to be disclosed location in Switzerland.
``These are technical committees and they will only be discussing a cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains,″ he said. ``These are not peace talks; they will only be talking about that cease-fire.″
Washington is trying to help end Sudan’s 18-year civil war, the longest-running in Africa. More than 2 million people are estimated to have died in fighting and related famines.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army draws support from southern Sudan, where the animist and Christian population resents rule by the Muslim-dominated north. The rebels are seeking autonomy, and possible independence, for the south.
The United States has provided about $1.2 billion in humanitarian aid to southern Sudan since 1989.
Previous negotiations have been chaired by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a group of east and central African states.
El-Bashir and the SPLA have agreed in principle on holding a referendum for the self-determination of what was defined as southern Sudan at the time of independence from joint rulers Britain and Egypt, in 1956. But the SPLA wants to include other areas, such as the southwestern Nuba mountains _ a demand that the government rejects.
U.S. envoy John Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has proposed a package of confidence-boosting measures beginning with a cease-fire in the Nuba mountains, a halt to aerial bombardment, the creation of ``zones of tranquility″ to allow the delivery of aid, and efforts to stop militia members from enslaving civilians.
Danforth arrived in Khartoum on Saturday on a four-day visit that will include a trip to the Nuba mountains and talks with officials in Khartoum.
He would not comment on the planned talks, but has said that if his current visit to Sudan fails to yield progress, his personal role in the mediation efforts would end.
Swiss Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Daniela Stoffel, said the talks will involve both Swiss and U.S. mediators and will be ``in the context of the initiative of (former) Sen. Danforth.″ She added the talks would likely start later this week.