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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 00:14 GMT 01:14 UK
Sudan president pledges peace
(left to right) Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa and Sudanese Second Vice President Moses Machar in Juba
Chances of peace are better than in many years, mediators believe
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has told a rally in the southern town of Juba that the country's 20-year civil war is nearing an end.

"There will be no wars, there will no more death, there will be no more rifles," President Bashir told the crowd, gathered to mark the 14th anniversary of the military coup that brought him to power.

Mr Bashir's visit comes at a critical moment - with a final session of the protracted peace talks scheduled to resume on 6 July.

The negotiations, due to take place in Kenya, are an attempt to settle the conflict between the Muslim North and the predominantly Christian South that has cost an estimated two million lives.

The president was accompanied on his trip by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Musa.

On Sunday, Mr Mousa said Arab institutions had injected more than $100m into projects in southern Sudan.

A correspondent for the BBC in Sudan says the Arab League and the Sudanese Government are eager to rebuild the area to persuade the south to remain part of a united Sudan.

Support

Mediators now believe that the chances of reaching a settlement in Sudan's bitter civil war are better than they have been for many years, the BBC's Africa analyst Martin Plaut says.

Not only is a comprehensive draft agreement almost complete, but all the international backers, including critically the United States, are pushing hard for an agreement.

The hope is that by late August or early September a deal will be done. And now President Bashir, has come out in support of a deal:

"On 6 July, God willing, the negotiators will go for a new round of talks to discuss the final touches for a peace agreement", he told the rally.

"We are approaching this round of talks with the most serious commitment we have ever announced towards peace and the strongest will and desire to overcome the final hurdles towards peace."

But the president also stressed that "we are not oblivious of objective fears from the observers on the outcome".

Obstacles

The obstacles to peace are not to be underestimated.

Soldiers
Fighting has been going on in Sudan for some 20 years
There is still no agreement on whether or not Islamic law will apply in Khartoum as the capital of a unified Sudan.

Another issue is the army. Who will take control of the integrated command if the southern rebels, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) retain their own armed forces?

Then there is the position of the other groups, outside the current talks.

What will happen to the new insurgents in Darfur or areas like the Nuba mountains?

None of these problems - and others besides - will be easily overcome.

But for once there is some optimism about the possible outcome of these make-or-break talks.




SEE ALSO:
Sudan 'ceasefire broken'
02 Jan 03  |  Africa
Sudan talks end without deal
18 Nov 02  |  Africa
Country profile: Sudan
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Talisman pulls out of Sudan
10 Mar 03  |  Business


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