Sudan VP, rebel chief resume last round of peace talks in Kenya

Dec 6 (AFP)

Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Taha and the main rebel chief John Garang on Monday resumed the last round of high-level talks in Kenya aimed at clinching a peace deal by year-end to halt Africa's longest civil war.

"The two leaders have resumed talks and as usual we remain optmistic," a mediation official told AFP from the talks' venue in the northwest Kenyan town of Naivasha.

During the brief meeting, Taha and Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), "agreed on the timetable to carry on the talks," SPLM/A spokesman Yasser Arman told AFP.

The high-level negotiations resumed more than a week after other delegates started discussing details of a permanent ceasefire and technical security measures.

The UN Security Council last month held a special session in Nairobi and extracted a written promise from the Sudan government and SPLM/A rebels to sign the deal ending 21 years of conflict in southern Sudan by December 31.

More than two years of intense negotiations have already delivered agreements on key issues such as sharing of power and wealth, leaving technical details on the negotiation table, crucial to reaching a final peace deal to halt Africa's bloodiest conflict.

At least 1.5 million people have been killed and over four million others displaced by the war, which erupted in 1983 when the mainly Christian and animist south took up arms to end domination by the Arabised, Muslim north.