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South Africa ready to lead Sudan reconstruction-Mbeki


CAPE TOWN, May 27 (Reuters) - South Africa is ready to lead post-war reconstruction in Sudan, President Thabo Mbeki said on Thursday after Sudan’s Khartoum-based government and southern rebels signed a peace pact to end Africa’s longest civil war.

The Sudan government and rebels agreed on Wednesday on how to share power and manage disputed areas after months of tough talks in Kenya. The agreement paves the way for a comprehensive deal and a ceasefire in a conflict which has claimed an estimated two million lives over two decades.

"Yesterday in Kenya, the government of the Sudan and the SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) concluded their negotiations and signed a peace agreement so dear to the Sudanese people and the peoples of Africa," he said.

Last August the African Union mandated South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse, to chair a committee on post-war Sudan, but there had been no specific details. The nine-member group met for the first time in March this year.

"We are ready to discharge the responsibilities entrusted to us by the Sudanese and the African Union, to lead the African process in support of the post-conflict reconstruction."

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad told Reuters South Africa would consult the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other donors on efforts to rebuild Sudan’s infrastructure.

"We want to see how we can get a co-ordinated approach to the reconstruction of that country," he said.

Wednesday’s accord does not cover a separate conflict raging in the western Darfur area of Africa’s largest country. It excludes up to 30 other militia groups, some eyeing Sudan’s newly tapped oil wealth, who could still scupper peace hopes.

After a decade of on-off efforts to end a war that broadly pits northern Arab Muslims against southern black animists and Christians, talks made massive strides after Sudan First Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha took a direct role last September.

Members of the AU committee on Sudan include chief negotiator Kenya, Sudan, Algeria, Gabon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal.

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