US welcomes Sudan peace deal

UNITED NATIONS
Dec 31 (AFP)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday welcomed the signing of a peace accord to bring an end to Sudan's north-south civil war.

"The signing of the ceasefire agreement and the annex on implementation modalities end more than two decades of civil war in which millions of Sudanese have died," Powell said in a statement.

"The peace accord is a tremendous and historic achievement," he said.

The government in Khartoum and the main southern Sudan rebel group inked accords Friday on two outstanding issues, paving the way for a final deal to end Africa's longest-running conflict.

The first protocol concerned a permanent ceasefire and the second details of how the final peace agreement will be implemented.

They overcome the last sticking points at the marathon peace talks, which started in Kenya in early 2002, and clear the way for the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement in Nairobi on January 9.

"The United States will strongly support implementation of the peace agreement -- that will commence following the January 9 signing ceremony -- in order to promote stability, prosperity, and democracy in a unified Sudan," Powell said.

"This will contribute to stability in the strategic Horn of Africa and will send a clear, positive message to the people of the Middle East, Africa, and throughout the world that the most intractable of conflicts can be resolved," he said.

The Sudan war erupted in 1983 when the southern rebels rose up against Khartoum to end Arab and Muslim domination and marginalisation of the black, animist and Christian south.

The war and its effects have killed at least 1.5 million people and displaced four million others.

Since July 2002, both sides have agreed on granting the south the right to self-determination after six years of self-rule, power- and wealth-sharing, management of national security and administration of disputed regions in the centre of the country during the post-conflict interim period.

Powell cautioned that the conflict was "inextricably related" to a separate conflict in Sudan's vast western Darfur region, which has left an estimated 70,000 dead since February 2003.

"We expect all the parties to work together decisively and immediately to end the violence in Darfur," Powell said.

"There are two tracks, but they must lead to the same point -- peace, stability, and prosperity for all of the people of Sudan," he said.