Home | News    Tuesday 25 January 2005

EU readies aid for Sudan as top officials visit


BRUSSELS, Jan 25 (AFP) — Sudan’s first vice president and a top rebel leader were due to sign an accord with the European Union Tuesday to resume cooperation after the end of one of Africa’s longest ever civil wars.

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Ali Osman Taha

First Vice President Ali Osman Taha and Nhial Deng Nhi, commissioner for external relations of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), were to sign the "country strategy paper" for EU-Sudanese cooperation with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU aid chief Louis Michel.

Officials said the signing would open the way to the release of more than 450 million euros in EU aid funds — provided a peace deal between the government and SPLM sticks, and peace is restored to the region of Darfur.

"It’s a way to show that peace dividends are available after the signing of the January 9 accord between the north and the south, and to encourage the main actors to pursue peace in Darfur," Michel’s spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said.

"The strategy paper has been suspended since 1990 so there is a significant amount of money available that has been held up. But this does not mean that we are today giving 450 million euros," he told AFP.

"We are just at the beginning of this cooperation process. The money is available for the future, provided there is progress in implementation of the north-south peace agreement and to an improvement of the situation in Darfur."

The EU aid funds would be used to safeguard the delivery of food aid, for education, internal refugees and to build up Sudanese administrative institutions, the spokesman said.

The legislative body of the SPLM on Monday unanimously ratified the January 9 peace deal signed between the Muslim-dominated government and the southern rebel group to end 21 years of war.

Some 1.5 million people died and another four million fled their homes during the civil war in mainly Christian south Sudan, Africa’s longest conflict since the end of a 27-year war in Angola in 2002.

International concern about Sudan has now focussed on the western region of Darfur, where about 70,000 people are estimated to have been killed and 1.5 million others made homeless in attacks by government-backed militias.

The situation in Darfur was expected to dominate talks later Tuesday between Taha and EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana.

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