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US Bush discusses Darfur & CPA with special envoy to Sudan

July 14, 2008 (WASHINGTON) – The US president George Bush met today with his special envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson in a private meeting the White House.

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President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sit in the Oval Office with Rich Williamson, Special Envoy for Sudan Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008

The meeting was closed to the press but the White House spokesperson Dana Perino told reporters that Bush and Williamson discussed the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the North and South.

This is the first time the US envoy met Bush since returning from Sudan last month.

On June 3rd Williamson announced suspension of normalization talks with Khartoum after failing to bridge differences between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) over the oil rich region of Abyei.

The US envoy appearing frustrated told reporters that he was "sad and disappointed…. until north and south Sudan wanted peace there’s nothing the United States or others can do."

“Right now our talks are suspended,” he added.

Perino said that the issue of Abyei was brought up in the meeting.

“They talked about finding a lasting solution to the border area, along with a formula for revenue sharing, which remains a key to a lasting peace in the area” she said.

The US administration appeared skeptical on an agreement signed between North and South on the status of Abyei that would provide for international arbitration on the border demarcation.

The US State Department did not issue any statement welcoming the agreement as it normally does on issues relating to the CPA it helped broker in 2005 that ended two decades of war between North and South.

The White House spokesperson said that Bush “was troubled that nearly one year after the passage of the Security Council resolution that authorized the peacekeeping force for Darfur, that force is still not fully deployed or capable of protecting large civilian populations”.

“We are looking at ways the United States can do more to increase the number and effectiveness of peacekeepers there” Perino said with providing details.

Washington has been pushing hard for quick deployment of UN-AU peacekeepers in Darfur. Williamson has in the past blamed the UN secretariat for failing to move quickly on the UN-AU force.

Perino also said that Bush instructed Williamson to travel to the region “to keep the process going” but did not say when.

The US official did not make any mention of the normalization talks with Sudan that came to a stop last month.

She said that Bush was also concerned about lack of development in South despite signing the CPA.

“I heard a very interesting statistic….that in the south of the country, there’s only three kilometers of roads. And so getting people around and getting this country moving again, after the longest civil war — I think in history — is something that the President is very concerned about” Perino said.

Sudan has been plagued by civil wars since independence and an estimated two million people have died in the North-South civil war that ended in 2005 after the CPA.

The deal also does not cover a separate conflict in the western region of Darfur, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes since rebels took up arms in early 2003.