Sudan Nuba Mountain ceasefire extended to July '03

December 22,2002 (Reuters)

The Sudanese government and southern rebels have extended a landmark ceasefire agreement in the centre of the vast African country for another six months until mid-2003, the ceasefire monitoring body said on Sunday.

The ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains area has been renewed for six-month periods since it was brokered with U.S. mediation in January this year.

The two sides went on to forge a breakthrough outline peace deal in July, raising hopes of a final end to the 19-year-old war which has killed over two million people.

"This is indeed a great moment for all the people of the Nuba Mountains...The Nuba people have for years been in the frontline of the war and without adequate humanitarian support," said a statement from Jan Erik Wilhelmsen, chairman of the international Joint Military Commission (JMC).

The latest extension lasts until July 19, 2003, he said.

The government and southern rebels, fighting since 1983 over rebel demands for more autonomy in mainly non-Muslim southern Sudan, held talks in Washington last week on reaching a final peace deal.

Formal peace negotiations will resume in Kenya on January 6.

The Nuba Mountains area lies outside the southern region that is expected to have self-determination under a final deal.

Khartoum claims the Muslim area for the north, but the rebels says the Nubans are an ethnically marginalised group which should be governed by southern Sudan.