A senior U.S. envoy pushing to shore up the fragile agreement that ended a 21-year civil war in the south and strengthen peacemaking in Darfur in the west met with Sudanese unity government officials Wednesday.
After a meeting with Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir and Second Vice President Osman Ali Taha, the U.S. State Department's No. 2 official, Robert Zoellick addressed non-governmental organization workers, opposition members and political activists at the University of Khartoum.
He said both el-Bashir's National Congress and the former southern rebels who are now its partner in the government needed to get back on track in implementing a peace deal signed in January so that other parts of Sudan can also find peace.
The January agreement stopped Africa's longest-running civil war between the mostly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south that left about 2 million people dead. But delays in implementing it have raised questions about both parties' commitment.
Zoellick told journalists after his speech and day of meetings that el-Bashir had reassured him of his commitment to the January agreement and the Darfur peace talks. Delays, Zoellick added, raised "fears and anxiety about the lack of commitment."
The January deal provides for an autonomous south with its own army, government and a new constitution during the six-year interim period. After the transition, the 10 southern states will hold a referendum on independence.
Implementation of the power- and wealth-sharing deal faltered after the death of the southern leader John Garang in a helicopter crash in July. Among the provisions still pending were formation of commissions to monitor the sharing of oil revenues and settle land use issues. Those commissions should have been established in June. The trip is Zoellick's fourth to Sudan in six months. U.S. lawmakers are pressing the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to ensure el-Bashir supports efforts to end the violence in the country at the crossroads between the Middle East and Africa. A.M.
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