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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Sudan battle follows peace accord
President Omar al-Bashir (l), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (c), and SPLA's John Garang (r)
Key leaders held talks in Uganda at the weekend
More than 1,000 people have been killed in attacks by government forces in western Upper Nile province, says a Sudanese rebel spokesman.

Samson Kwaje told the BBC that the fighting started on Friday when government militia forces attacked Sudan People's Liberation Army positions around the town of Tam.

He said that over the weekend the government used Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships to continue to attacks.

The SPLA report of the fighting follows closely on the conclusion of a peace deal between the rebels and the Sudanese government and a meeting in Uganda between the rebel leader John Garang and the Sudanese president.

In a separate incident, a Kenyan aid worker and three of his colleagues were abducted, allegedly by government-backed militias.

The aid workers, employed by World Vision, were attacked early Monday at Waat, 820 kilometres (510 miles) south of the capital, Khartoum, said Alison Preston, a spokeswoman for the international Christian aid organization said.

An eyewitness says many people have fled to Bahr al-Ghazal region, to the west of Upper Nile.

Reverend John Sudan of the Southern Sudan Operation Mercy aid organisation told the BBC that it has confirmation that the attacks took place and that tens of thousands of people have fled.

The scene of the fighting had been abandoned by the inhabitants, according to Reverend Sudan.

An aid worker backed up the claims that tens of thousands of people had fled the fighting.

"There is extremely heavy fighting," Dan Eiffe, a spokesman for Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) told Reuters news agency in Nairobi.

The government has made no comment on the specific reports about fighting around Tam, but a Sudanese presidential spokesman said on Sunday that fighting in southern Sudan appeared to have stopped as a result of the Uganda meeting.

The Sudanese charge d'affaires in Nairobi, Ahmed Dirdeiry, said he had no information about the attack.

But he said any fighting should not derail the recent peace deal because no ceasefire had been signed.

US peace deal

The peace deal brokered by the United States creates the possibility of southern Sudan breaking away from the north in six years time, something the SPLA have long fought for.

President Omar al-Bashir and SPLA rebel leader John Garang met at the weekend in Kampala for talks with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

The Sudanese Government has in the past accused Uganda of supporting the SPLA, while Uganda has accused Sudan of supporting the Lord's Resistance Army rebels active in northern Uganda.

Earlier this year, talks between Uganda and Sudan led to joint operations against LRA bases in southern Sudan and an improvement in bilateral relations.

Peace not at risk

On Monday, US Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner said that fighting had significantly declined since the deal was signed in Kenya 10 days ago.

President Bashir's advisor on the peace process, Salah Eddin Atabani, told reporters on Sunday night that fighting appeared to have stopped following the talks between the president and the SPLA leader in Kampala on Saturday, according to the French news agency AFP.

The SPLA's Samson Kwaje denied Tuesday that the fighting had totally subsided, blaming the continuing conflict on Khartoum.

The SPLA told the BBC that the fighting in Upper Nile did not put the peace agreement at risk but that it reserved the right to retaliate.

The BBC's Paul Wood
"The people of Sudan believe this time it will be different"
Dr Kwaje, SPLA, interviewed for Network Africa
"A ceasefire will really be the last item that can be discussed"
Wayne Neil, Sudan working group, US state dept.
"This sort of fighting is not unexpected"

Key stories

See also:

28 Jul 02 | Media reports
27 Jul 02 | Africa
21 Jul 02 | Media reports
09 Jul 02 | Africa
02 Jul 02 | Africa
01 Jul 02 | Africa
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