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Tuesday, 4 January, 2000, 17:25 GMT
Sudan and Eritrea restore links

Eritrean soldiers Eritrea's war with Ethiopia has been one cause of tension

Eritrea and Sudan are to re-establish diplomatic relations after a break of more than five years.

In a joint communique signed on Monday, the two Red Sea neighbours said they would re-open their embassies in each other's capitals.

Border crossing points will also be opened. A committee will meet later this month to work out the practicalities.

Sudanese state radio said the nation's embassy in the Eritrean capital Asmara had been handed over to the Khartoum government on Tuesday. It had previously been occupied by the Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance.

The radio said Eritrea had also pulled back and disarmed Sudanese opposition groups on the border.

Qatar mediation

The moves follow earlier agreements on normalisation reached in May and June last year after mediation by Qatar. Diplomatic relations were broken off in 1994.

Battle in the horn
Eritrea had accused Sudan of supporting Ethiopia in its border dispute with Eritrea. Access to Sudanese ports helped landlocked Ethiopia when the conflict meant it could not use the Eritrean harbours on which it had previously relied.

For its part, Sudan accused Eritrea of giving refuge to opposition groups.

However, recent moves inside Sudan have seen the NDA - a grouping of northern-based opposition groups supported by Eritrea - enter dialogue with the Khartoum government.

Egypt warms to Sudan

The recent normalisation of relations between Egypt and Sudan has also spurred on wider peace efforts in the region.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa has flown to Sudan to discuss what he called the new openness being shown by the Islamist-led government there towards its political opponents.

Mr Moussa said before leaving Cairo that, under the sole leadership of President Omar al-Bashir, Khartoum was now prepared to listen and negotiate to reach a vision of a new Sudan that accepted all opposition factions.

General Bashir last month dissolved parliament and declared a state of emergency to forestall plans by his former ally, the parliament speaker, Hassan al-Turabi, to reduce presidential powers.

He has also announced the revision of a one-year-old law regulating political parties.

While in Khartoum, Mr Moussa is expected to meet the Libyan Foreign Minister, Omar Mustafa al-Montasser, to discuss an Egyptian-Libyan initiative for ending the 16-year war with rebels in southern Sudan.

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See also:
23 Dec 99 |  Africa
Egypt and Sudan repair relations
17 Dec 99 |  Africa
Sudan's new prospects for peace
08 Dec 99 |  Africa
Sudan and Uganda to tackle rebels
28 Nov 99 |  Africa
Sudan opposition criticises peace accord

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