Sudanese rebel leader promises peace agreement

Dec. 3 (Xinhua)

A Sudanese rebel leader said in Pretoria on Friday that an agreement between the Sudanese government and rebels would be concluded by Dec. 31 as required bythe United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted in Kenyan capital Nairobi last month.

Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) chairman Paul Garang told a press conference that efforts to bring peace tothe Darfur region would get impetus from the pending conciliation accord.

"We are very optimistic, in fact not only optimistic -- we havecommitted ourselves to signing the peace agreement," he told reporters after briefing South African Deputy President Jacob Zumain Pretoria about progress with negotiations.

Zuma said South Africa was "very positive" about progress made with the peace talks.

Garang said on Friday he would travel to Naivasha of Kenya in two days for talks with Sudanese First Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed to ensure the peace process was concluded and signed by the deadline.

Current peace talks in Naivasha were not only about a resolution to the conflict, he stressed. They were expected to yield a new coalition government and a peaceful democratic transformation of the whole country.

"There will be a new political dynamic in Khartoum that will bebetter placed to address the issues in Darfur," Garang said.

The Sudanese civil war started in 1983 when the SPLM/A took up arms fighting for self-determination in the southern part of the country, which has left some two million people dead, mostly through war-induced famine and disease.

As Africa's largest country, Sudan's western Darfur region hasalso plunged into conflict since February 2003, when two rebel forces took up arms against the Khartoum government, accusing the authorities of not protecting them from the attacks of "Janjaweed"militia and demanding autonomy.

The Darfur crisis has been termed by the United Nations as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, in which thousands were killed and one million displaced.