Sudan, rebels to sign peace agreement Jan. 10

Sudan (AP)

The Sudanese government and the main southern rebel group, Sudan People's Liberation Army, will sign a peace agreement Jan. 10 in Kenya to end more than 20 years of civil war, a senior government official said Saturday.

Gutbi el-Mahdi, political adviser to President Omar el-Bashir, told the official Sudan Media Center the government and SPLA negotiators decided to continue their talks during the Christmas and the New Year holidays and that the signing ceremony will be publicly celebrated both in north and south of Sudan.

"The final signing for peace will be on Jan. 10 in the presidential palace in Nairobi," Gutbi el-Mahdi, President Omar el-Bashir's political adviser told the SMC.

"All technical committees have ended their work except for the power-sharing committee, which is expected to finish its job at any moment," the independent newspaper Al-Sahafa quoted Al-Dardiri Mohammed Ahmed, a member of the government peace delegation, as saying.

Sudan's north-south civil war erupted in 1983 when rebels from the mostly animist and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Muslim, Arab north. More than 2 million people have died in Africa's longest-running conflict, mainly through war-induced famine. The warring parties began peace talks in July 2002.

The government is also trying to settle a separate conflict in western Darfur region, where two non-Arab African groups began a rebellion in February 2003. The government responded by backing Arab militias who have been accused of killing and raping civilians. The conflict has created what the United Nations calls one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

On Thursday, U.S. President George W. Bush, signed legislation that authorizes financial support to help Sudanese victims of violence and as an incentive for reaching a final peace agreement with SPLA. The bill also encourages Bush to impose sanctions on Sudan's government if violence continues in Darfur or the peace talks collapse.

Sudan's ambassador to Washington, Kheder Haroun, was quoted by Al-Sahafa on Saturday as saying the Sudanese government had informed the U.S. administration of its displeasure at the bill.