Sudan peace talks to resume in Kenya on Tuesday

Feb 16 (AFP)

Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and rebel leader John Garang are due to resume peace talks in the Kenyan town of Naivasha on Tuesday, the chief mediator told AFP on Monday.

Taha and Garang, who heads the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), "will resume the fourth high-level consultations from February 17 through March 16," Lazaro Sumbeiywo, a retired Kenyan general, told AFP.

"The parties will be negotiating the remaining issues outstanding in the conflict, the (geographical) areas of Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile as well as power-sharing," said a statement issued by the mediating body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

While not strictly part of south Sudan, the SPLA claims to represent the people of these areas.

SPLA spokesman Yasser Arman said the rebel movement was optimistic that this round would culminate in the signing of a comprehsensive peace accord.

In October, both sides pledged they would sign such a deal by the end of 2003.

"As SPLA, we shall go to the talks in Naivasha with open minds and expectations that that we shall reach a final peace agreement in this round of talks," Arman told AFP.

Khartoum expressed a similar sentiment.

"The government is determined to reach peace, the plans are that we conclude talks in this upcoming round and start dealing with implementation modalities and other things," Ahmed Dirdiery, one of Khartoum's top negotiators told AFP.

Khartoum and the rebels have already signed an agreement on a 50-50 split of the country's wealth, particularly oil revenues.

In 2002, Khartoum and the SPLA struck a breakthrough accord granting the south the right to self-determination after a six-year transition period, and last September both sides reached a deal on transitional security, under which the government would withdraw its troops from the south.

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

The conflict and war-related famine and disease have claimed at
least 1.5 million lives and displaced an estimated four million