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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Sudan peace talks to resume
Sudan rebels
Sudan's civil war has dragged on for decades
The Sudanese government and southern rebels have agreed to a cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks to end the country's 19-year civil war.

The talks - which were being held in Kenya - were suspended after the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels took the key southern garrison town of Torit early in September.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Andrew Harding says the decision will come as a huge relief to the millions of Sudanese desperate for an end to Africa's longest running war.

Kenyan mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo told the BBC that discussions would resume in 10 days' time, on 14 October.

Accord

A memorandum of understanding signed by the government and the rebels calls for a military stand-down by all forces and the maximum of restraint.

A spokesman for the rebels, Justin Arop, said the SPLA had promised to stop fighting and would only use arms in self-defence.

Our correspondent says that the agreement is a major breakthrough, although it amounts to a climbdown for the government, which has settled for less than it wanted.

The government had said it would only resume talks once a ceasefire was in place.

The two sides will now finalise the details and the terms of a ceasefire.

The aim of the talks in the Kenyan town of Machakos was to finalise an accord to end the long running civil war.

Under the agreement, the mainly Christian and animist south will enjoy six years of self-rule, before deciding in a referendum whether to secede or remain part of the Sudanese state, which is dominated by the Muslim north.

Sudan's war has killed an estimated two million people since 1983, and displaced another four million.

Clashes in east

Meanwhile, the Eritrean-based Sudanese opposition movement, the National Democratic Alliance, say they have taken a town on the Sudanese-Eritrean border.

The alliance, which includes the SPLA as its largest component, said it had captured the town of Hamashkoreb in eastern Sudan.

Sudanese state television accused Eritrea of carrying out the attack, and said the matter had been discussed at a meeting chaired by President Omar al-Bashir.

But the Eritrean ambassador in London said his government categorically denied any involvement attacks on Sudan.

A BBC correspondent in Eritrea reports that the United Nations refugee agency had cancelled a convoy returning Eritrean refugees from Sudan because of the fighting.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
General Lazaro Sumbeiywo of IGAD on Focus on Africa
"They should exercise a lot of restraint so that they do not jeopardise the resumption of the talks"

Key stories

Background
See also:

22 Sep 02 | Africa
10 Sep 02 | Africa
09 Sep 02 | Africa
02 Sep 02 | Africa
30 Jul 02 | Africa
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