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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Sudan recaptures key town
Sudan rebels
Sudan's civil war has dragged on for decades
The Sudanese Government says it has re-captured the strategically important southern town of Torit, which fell to rebels in September.

The town changed hands following a night of fierce fighting.


The government will only return to the peace talks when a conducive atmosphere is created for holding dialogue

President Bashir
The news comes after the Sudanese authorities lost garrison towns in the east of the country to the rebels on Friday.

Despite the fighting, both sides have repeated their commitment to attend peace talks in Kenya later this month.

On Monday, the governor of Kassala Province in eastern Sudan announced the closure of the border with Eritrea, accusing them of supporting rebel aggression.

Last week the belligerents agreed to a cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks on 14 October to end the country's 19-year civil war.

'Tactical withdrawal'

The talks - being held in the Kenyan town of Machakos - were suspended after the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels took Torit early.

Samson Kwaje, SPLA spokesman in Nairobi, said rebel troops had made a "tactical withdrawal" from Torit to remove equipment and supplies reports Associated Press news agency.

The army statement gave no casualty details but said several rebel tanks were destroyed and that the "victory followed two weeks of intensive and fierce fighting."

On Monday, President Omar al-Bashir came close to rejecting plans to reconvene the peace talks, according to our reporter in Khartoum.

"The government will only return to the peace talks at Machakos when a conducive atmosphere is created for holding dialogue," President Bashir told the National Assembly.

Climbdown

He said that a cessation of activities had indeed been agreed last week, but that there had been no agreement on a stand-down of troops.

The memorandum of understanding last week called for a military stand-down by all forces and the maximum of restraint.

Sudan
Continued fighting undermines the peace talks

The agreement was hailed as a major breakthrough, although it amounted to a climbdown for the government, which had settled for less than it wanted.

The aim of the Machakos talks is 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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ishbel Mattheson
"Fighting went on through the night and into the morning"
Alfred Taban speaking on BBC Focus on Africa
"General command issued a statement saying they had liberated Torit today"
The BBC's Alex Last
"The Sudanese government has repeatedly accused Eritrea of being behind the rebel offensive"
Dr Samson Kwaje, SPLA, on BBC Focus on Africa
"The SPLA withdrew for tactical reasons"

Key stories

Background
See also:

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