Sudan-US US envoy runs into problem on Sudan peace mission

Jan 16, 2002 (AFP)

US special envoy Senator John Danforth said here Wednesday he has failed to secure the Khartoum government's support for a monitoring mechanism to protect civilians in Sudan's long-running civil war.

"Progress has been made in the other three proposals I made last November" during a previous mission, Danforth told a press conference at the end of his second visit to Sudan.

The government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) have agreed on a proposal for negotiating a truce in the Nuba mountains of southern Sudan, the envoy said.

He said they had also agreed to establish "zones of tranquility" for immunization purposes, and also on proposals against "slavery and abductions".

"A six-month ceasefire in the Nuba mountains is now being negotiated in Switzerland, while zones of tranquility have been agreed to be observed at least in principle for immunization" against diseases such as polio, he said.

The two sides have been meeting since Monday in the central Swiss town of Burgenstock to try to secure a ceasefire in the mountainous Nuba, part of a huge area of southern Sudan that has been ravaged by civil war since 1983.

Danforth said he could not reach agreement with Khartoum on the issue of immunity of civilians from military attacks.

It was the "key to all proposals we have made", the US peace envoy said, but the Sudanese government would not accept a mechanism for monitoring attacks.

"I am sorry to say that we have no real progress there as the government has not been supportive of a monitoring concept yet, although they agreed to a period of four weeks to halt unilateral military attacks."

He said the SPLM, on the other hand, has agreed to the mechanism.

"There is no meaning for prospects of peace and for US involvement in peace if there is no understanding on something as absolutely basic and consistent with the Geneva Conventions as the immunity of civilians from military attacks," he warned.

He said the government, with whom he would continue peace efforts, reiterated its commitment to the conventions, "but I need more than a verbal statement, we have to have something specific."

Danforth said he would meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday. They would discuss a proposal from Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi to merge Sudanese peace initiatives by Egypt and Libya as well as East Africa's Intergovernmental Authority on Development, he said.