Sudan final peace deal will be signed this month - FM

Dec 6, 2003 (AFP)

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said here Saturday that a final peace deal between Khartoum and southern rebels who have waged Africa's longest-running civil war will be signed by the end of the month.

The peace agreement between the government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) rebels "will be signed at the end of the current year," Ismail told reporters as he arrived in the evening in Cairo.

He said that upcoming talks between Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and rebel leader John Garang in the Kenyan town of Naivasha would "solve the three remaining questions" to peace - power, wealth-sharing, and three disputed regions not part of the south: Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile.

Expectations have been heightened that a final peace agreement would be reached before the end of December amid growing US pressure on the sides to put their differences aside.

However, Ismail's remarks are the strongest statement from the government yet that the multi-faceted conflict which has claimed more than 1.5 million lives since it began in 1983 will soon be over.

An official from the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediators told AFP earlier Saturday that a final accord could be reached before the December 19 end of this round.