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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
New peace push for Sudan
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (left), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (centre) and SPLA leader John Garang
The July deal failed to stop the fighting
The Sudan Government and rebels have started a new round of talks in Kenya aimed at agreeing a ceasefire in their 19-year civil war.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Andrew Harding says there is a mood of tentative optimism at the closed door talks, which are supposed to last five weeks in the town of Machakos.

Sudan conflict
1983: War begins
SPLA wants autonomy from Muslim north
Government has agreed to referendum
SPLA wants 50% of oil revenue
Last month, a framework agreement between the Islamic government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels was hailed as a breakthrough.

Then, the government accepted that a referendum should be held in six years' time to decide whether or not the south of the country should be allowed to break away.

It also agreed not to impose Islamic Sharia law on the largely animist and Christian population in the south.

But the fighting has not stopped yet, and our correspondent says that key issues remain unresolved.

These include:

  • How to share out Sudan's oil wealth
  • How to share power
  • The mechanics of a full ceasefire.

Pressure for peace

There have been outbreaks of fighting since the July deal was signed.

SPLA spokesman Sampson Kwaje demanded at least 50% of oil revenue for the south and said there would be no ceasefire until all the details had been thrashed out.

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels
About two million people have been killed in the conflict

"We took up arms because we have grievances. These grievances have not been resolved. They can only be resolved through a comprehensive agreement".

Sudan's charge d'affaires in Kenya Ahmed Dirdeiry told Reuters news agency that he hoped a ceasefire would be worked out.

"We will push for a cessation of hostilities during the talks, but if the fighting continues, anything we agree will be undermined," he said.

International mediators will be on hand offering advice and putting strong pressure on both the government and rebel delegations to make compromises.

'Best chance'

After two decades of war, there is profound mistrust on both sides.

But the population is desperate for peace, and the government knows that an agreement would help to end its international isolation and give it access to cheap loans from the International Monetary Fund.

The SPLA rebels are ready to fight on if the talks break down.

But their military options are limited, and our correspondent says their bargaining strength could well be at its peak.

This, he says, is Sudan's best chance for peace in years.

But Andrew Harding says the war has a momentum of its own, and even sustained international pressure may not be enough to stop it.


Key stories

Background
See also:

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