Sudanese government announces halt to airstrikes on southern rebels

CAIRO, Egypt
May 24, 2001 (AP)

The Sudanese Government announced on Thursday it will halt airstrikes against southern Sudanese rebels as of Friday, according to a state radio report.

Air attacks on forces of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army will stop in country's southern and Nuba Mountains regions, according to a BBC radio report Thursday carrying the Sudanese radio announcement.

The reported statement said the government "calls for and hopes for an immediate response from the other sides in order to promote the peace process in the country."

An SPLA spokesman cast doubt Thursday on the government's resolve to bringing a cease-fire to the conflict that has raged since 1983, saying that Khartoum has launched a new offensive on different fronts in the south in an attempt to drive SPLA forces out.

Yasser Orman said rebel forces had succeeded Wednesday in repelling a government attack in Sudan's Blue Nile province, bordering Ethiopia, which started Tuesday.

"At least 300 of the government's troops were killed and one helicopter gunship was shot down and large quantities of ammunition were seized," Orman said in a statement faxed to the Cairo office of The Associated Press from the SPLA's headquarters in Eritrea.

Sudan's civil war and related famines have left more than 2 million people dead. The SPLA wants greater autonomy for the Christian and animist south from the Muslim and Arab north.