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Sudanese foreign minister skeptical on next round of peace talks


KHARTOUM, Sudan, Sep 01, 2003 (AP) — Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail expressed doubt Monday over hopes for success in the upcoming peace talks aimed at ending the African country’s 20-year civil war.

"It will be difficult to reach a final agreement in the next round of peace talks in Nairobi (scheduled for Sept. 10)," Ismail said after an Egyptian delegation met with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and other senior officials.

But Ismail told reporters that he hoped the next round of talks with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army might "prepare a good atmosphere for a peace agreement" to be reached at a later date.

The seventh round of talks between Sudan’s Islamic-oriented government and the SPLA began Aug. 10 in Nanyuki, 145 kilometers (90 miles) north of Nairobi.

Ad’Dirdeiry M. Hamed, Sudan’s deputy ambassador to Kenya and a delegate at the talks, said Aug. 23 that differences over power-sharing resulted in the suspension of talks until Sept. 10.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and the country’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, left Khartoum Monday after a short visit during which Maher gave el-Bashir a message from President Hosni Mubarak about "contacts and efforts exerted by Egypt to support Sudan’s stand ... to achieve peace and unity."

Egypt is known to oppose the interim settlement - the July 2002 Machakos accord - that provides for a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan in six years.

Egypt opposes plans that might lead to the creation of a new state on the upper reaches of the Nile River, considering it a possible threat to its own water supply.

More than 2 million people have died in Sudan’s civil war since 1983, mainly through famine and disease exacerbated by fighting. Although initially seen as a conflict between Sudan’s Arabized Muslim north and the south, where the vast majority follow traditional religions and 5 percent are Christians, it has been compounded by Sudan’s new oil wealth.

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