"Close this deal" : US urges parties to Sudan's peace talks

Dec 29 (AFP)

Sudan's government and southern rebels should strive to close the deal in their drive to end two decades of civil war by the end of the year, the United States said.

Representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) are meeting to tackle sticky remaining issues after concluding a rough agreement on sharing proceeds from oil sales.

"We continue to urge both sides to come to an agreement before the end of the year," said State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.

"Our embassy in Nairobi is in regular contact with the parties. We are urging them to close this deal before the end of the year."

Khartoum's delegation is led by Vice President Ali Osman Taha, and the rebel team is led by SPLA chief John Garang.

The sides are now tackling the issues of three disputed regions and how to share power during an anticipated transitional period of self rule for the south.

The war in Sudan, which erupted in 1983, has pitted the south, where most observe traditional African religions and Christianity, against the Muslim, Arabised north.

The conflict has claimed at least 1.5 million lives and displaced an estimated four million people.

Previous rounds of talks, also in Kenya, have yielded success, first in 2002 when the foes agreed that, after six years of self-rule the south will hold a referendum on whether to join the north -- and under what arrangement -- or secede.

In September, Garang and Taha clinched a deal on transitional security arrangements.