US delegation kicks off Sudan talks

Dec 7 (AFP)

A US delegation launched talks Friday with Sudanese officials on proposals put forward by US peace envoy John Danforth for building confidence between the Khartoum government and the southern rebels.

The delegation, which arrived here Thursday night for a six-day visit, had its first meeting with Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail and Foreign Under Secretary Mutref Siddeiq Ahmed and discussed Danforth's proposals.

His four ideas are to extend a truce in the Nuba Mountains, create zones of calm in southern Sudan, refraining from striking civilian targets and ending practices of abduction and slavery.

SUNA news agency said the technical delegation, led by Jeffrey Millington, who is in charge of Sudan affairs at the US State Department, would meet with a number of Sudanese officials, including Presidential Peace Adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani. The agency did not elaborate on discussions at Friday's meeting.

During its visit due to end on Tuesday, the delegation is scheduled to visit the rebel-held town of Rumbeik in southern Sudan's Lakes State, before moving on to Nairobi, for talks with officials of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the official news agency said.

The US delegation is to prepare for a second visit by Danforth to Khartoum next January. Atabani earlier told journalists that his government had prepared its response to the proposals made by John Danforth during his November visit to Sudan but did not elaborate.