US envoy proposes Sudan confidence-building measures

Nov 14 (AFP)

The US special envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, suggested Wednesday three confidence-building measures to bring together the parties in Sudan's 18-year old civil war.

Danforth, a former US Senator from Missouri, asked the Sudanese government to extend its offer of access for humanitarian groups to deliver relief supplies to inhabitants in the central Sudan's Nuba Mountains.

"I hope the four-week period already offered by the government for delivery of relief will be extended indefinitely," Danforth said at a press conference, held under heavy security.

The Nuba Mountains area is one of the battlefronts in the Sudan's deadly war between the ruling Arab north and southern Christians and animists.

Danforth also called for the government to declare specified times throughout the country for conducting immunisation programs and other humanitarian projects.

He also called for the cessation of bombing and other military attacks on the civilian population in southern Sudan, a clear reference to actions both by the government and by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Danforth said he had a fourth idea related to the slave trade in the Sudan, without specifying the proposal.

Danforth said, in his discussions with government officials, he had cited reports "charging that persons were abducted and turned into slaves."

His proposals, the envoy said, "are important for confidence building and understanding (between the government and SPLA) and could be positive factors for achieving peace."

He said he would travel to Nairobi to discuss those ideas with SPLA leader John Garang. Danforth said he would be back in Khartoum by mid-January to follow up the quest for peace in the Sudan.

"I have set one year for my mission and if I fail, I will go back to President George Bush and tell him that we have failed," said Danforth, adding out that, in case of his failure, another person might be appointed.

Asked on whether his mission was related to the US-declared war on terrorism, Danforth indicated that he was appointed on September 6, before the attacks on New York and Washington.

However, he pointed out that relations between the US and any other country would be "influenced by the position of that country towards terrorism."