SLUG: 2-287606 U-S / Sudan (L)
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT 2-
TITLE=U-S / SUDAN (L-ONLY)
INTRO: Secretary of State Colin Powell met Friday with Sudanese rebel leader John Garang to discuss U-S-led efforts to mediate in the country's long-running civil war. Mr. Garang, head of the Sudan People's Liberation Army or S-P-L-A, says he welcomes U-S peace efforts, but is skeptical of the Khartoum government's intentions. V-O-A's David Gollust has more from the State Department.
TEXT: Mr. Garang had originally been scheduled to meet with working-level officials here. And the fact he saw Mr. Powell reflects the priority the Bush administration is giving to its effort to bring an end to the Sudanese conflict, which has been raging for nearly 20-years.
President Bush last year named former U-S Senator John Danforth a special envoy for Sudan and he helped broker a cease-fire accord in January for the Nuba mountains region, where civilians have been frequently cut off from relief supplies.
The United States suspended the peace effort last month after a government helicopter attacked a World Food Program feeding site and killed 17 people. But it resumed the contacts last week after Khartoum's Islamic government and the S-P-L-A agreed to international monitoring to safeguard humanitarian projects.
In a talk with reporters after meeting Secretary of State Powell, Mr. Garang said he thinks there is a "window of opportunity" for the peace process to advance.
He attributed the Khartoum government's support for U-S peace efforts to fear about begin considered a terrorist supporter, given that it formerly played host to Osama Bin Laden. But he said if that fear prompts the government to support peace efforts, it will be constructive:
From past records, they have always violated all agreements that they have signed. But the prospect of they being treated like the Taleban because, remember Osama Bin Laden was in the Sudan for five years from 1991 to 1996. So this regime is frightened that they can be treated like the Taleban. And that fear is driving them. If that can be used in order to help them respect these agreement, that would be good.
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Mr. Garang said past truce agreements did not stop government attacks on civilians and he said a question that remains to be answered in U-S-led peace efforts is what will be the price of non-compliance with the latest agreement. He said he had no confidence in the Khartoum government, which he described as a "regime that has declared Jihad on my people."
The monitoring agreement concluded last week will be an off-shoot of the Nuba Mountains cease-fire accord and will include a mainly European 15-member observer team headed by a senior Norwegian officer.
The Islamic government in Khartoum has been fighting Christian and animist rebels seeking autonomy for the southern region since 1983. It's estimated that two million people have died in the fighting and related famine. (Signed)
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