Sudan rebels accept government ceasefire extension

July 5 (Reuters)

Sudanese rebels have agreed to an extension of a government ceasefire offer, breathing fresh life into a peace process aimed at ending one of Africa's longest running civil wars, officials said on Friday.

An international committee overseeing a six-month renewable ceasefire between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) came into effect in Sudan's Nuba Mountain region in January.

The government in Khartoum agreed to a six month extension on June 15 this year. The ceasefire's first mandate period will end on July 19, 2002.

A statement from the Joint Monitoring Mission and the Joint Military Commission overseeing the truce said the SPLM -- the political wing of the SPLA -- and the people of the Nuba Mountains, had agreed to extend the ceasefire on Thursday.

The ceasefire is part of efforts aimed at ending the country's civil war, which has claimed more then two million lives. The SPLA has been fighting since 1983 seeking greater autonomy for Sudan's mainly Christian or animist south from Islamic rule from the north.

A rebel spokesman confirmed they had agreed to the new deal.

"The SPLA/SPLM have agreed for the ceasefire to be extended by another six months but we are also asking for a tripartite meeting between ourselves, the Sudan government and the international community on its implementation," Samson Kwaje, SPLA spokesman told Reuters in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Kwaje said the rebels were not satisfied with the implementation of the ceasefire so far.

"There have been violations, there are some areas in the Nuba mountains that the government should have vacated but has not," he said. "We want a smooth meeting to review the implementation. We want everything to go well."

The SPLA rejected an extension of the truce last month, saying peace talks in neighbouring Kenya would proceed while the fighting took place. The talks, which are the first in more than a year, opened last Monday in Machakos, 80 km (50 miles) east of Nairobi.