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US special envoy deployed to deadlocked Sudan talks

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John Danforth

NAIROBI, March 18 (AFP) — US President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, was due in Kenya to meet government and southern rebel negotiators with the aim of breaking a deadlock in crucial peace talks, a US embassy statement said.

"Special envoy John Danforth will arrive in Kenya this (Thursday) evening at the direction of President Bush to meet with the various negotiating parties, as Sudan peace talks move into their final stage," the statement said.

Currently, Sudan’s Vice President Ali Osman Taha and Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) chief John Garang are struggling to unlock a deadlock on the administration of one of the disputed regions of Abyei, an oil-rich area of central Sudan with a complex political history.

A deal on Abyei would push forward the talks, which have already seen tentative deals on two other conflict areas in central Sudan — Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile.

While they are not strictly part of southern Sudan, the SPLA claims to represent the people of the three regions.

The US government has been pushing both sides to a clinch final peace deal to end the continent’s most intractable conflict, which flared up in 1983 and has claimed at least 1.5 million lives and displaced four million people.

Since 1983 when the south, where most people observe traditional African religions and Christianity, took up arms against the Muslim and Arabized north, efforts to end the war has been complicated by change of regimes in Khartoum and disunity among southerners.

Marathon parleys in the past have already clinched an agreement on a 50-50 split of the country’s wealth, particularly oil revenues from wells mostly found in the south.

In 2002, the two sides struck a breakthrough accord granting the south the right to self-determination after a six-year transition period, while last September both sides reached a deal on how to administer national security during the interim period.

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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