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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Bush surprise at Sudan briefing
President Bush meets National Endowment for Democracy award recipients from left: Alfred Taban, Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove, Immaculee Birhaheka, Zainab Hawa Bangura. White House photo Kimberlee Hewitt
George Bush met the award winners from Africa for about an hour
US President George Bush expressed amazement when he heard that the south Sudan peace deal was not working 18 months after it was signed.

"That is not the information I'm getting," he told the BBC's Khartoum reporter Alfred Taban, who was in Washington to receive an award.

He met the president in the Oval Office with three other recipients of the National Endowment for Democracy award.

Last year, Sudan emerged from a 21-year war between the north and south.

After two years of bargaining the Khartoum government and southern rebels signed a comprehensive peace deal in January 2005, that should provide a high degree of autonomy for the south.

No water

Our correspondent says he spent almost 20 minutes talking to Mr Bush, who was very keen to hear about the situation in Sudan.

Whatever information you're getting, that peace agreement is not being implemented by the government in Khartoum
BBC's Alfred Taban

"He asked me if the peace agreement was working and I said, 'Mr President, it is not working,' and he was very surprised," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

When the president said that this was not what he had been informed, our reporter said he told Mr Bush: "Well, whatever information you're getting, that peace agreement is not being implemented by the government in Khartoum."

He went on to tell the president that people in southern Sudan were still waiting to see improvements to their lives.

"There's no water, there's no electricity, nothing in Juba," our correspondent said, describing life in the capital of south Sudan.

During the discussion Mr Bush called one of his aides and asked to be given more details on southern Sudan.

"He appeared to be taking it very seriously," our reporter said, describing the president's manner as warm and welcoming, despite the intimidating surroundings.

"You could almost feel the power radiating from the Oval Office," our reporter said.

Freedom fighters

Mr Bush said the four African winners of the National Endowment for Democracy award, were being honoured for their "courage and fortitude and strength in promoting freedom".

"We've got a man from the Sudan who talked eloquently about free press," the president said.

"My spirits are enriched by talking to freedom lovers and freedom fighters,"

The other award winners were:

  • Zainab Bangura, human rights and women's rights campaigner from Sierra Leone
  • Immaculee Birhaheka, human rights and women's rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Reginald Matchaba-Hove, human rights activist from Zimbabwe.


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