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US Envoy Returns to Sudan as Tensions Mount

VOA News 10 December 2009

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is sending a top diplomat to Sudan in an effort to calm rising tensions ahead of April elections.

Secretary Clinton announced Thursday that special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration will return to the African country this weekend.

The action comes after Sudanese police clashed with demonstrators from opposition parties and semi-autonomous southern Sudan outside parliament in Khartoum Monday.

Rights group Amnesty International says police arrested more than 200 people and tortured some of those in custody.

Clinton condemned the crackdown, saying freedom of assembly and speech are critical for credible elections. She also said protesters should not have to fear they might be arbitrarily arrested or detained.

Clinton said Gration will help restart dialogue to help rival parties in Sudan settle their differences peacefully.

The demonstrators were demanding parliament pass laws they see as vital to making next year's elections free and fair.

The elections are a key part of a peace deal between Sudan's northern and southern regions that ended a 21-year civil war in 2005.

The former southern rebel group SPLM, Sudan People's Liberation Movement, and the northern-based National Congress Party have accused each other of failing to implement the pact. The parties are partners in Sudan's national coalition government.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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