- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2000

Sen. Bill Frist ended a humanitarian medical mission to Sudan with a call on the sub-Saharan African nation to stop bombing civilian targets in its civil war.

"You can discuss individual issues, but the war is the war and you cannot properly tend to the medical needs of war victims while the war is raging around you," the Tennessee Republican said in a conference call Friday from Nairobi, Kenya, at the end of his four-day visit to Sudan.

Mr. Frist, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa discussed the 17-year war, medical missions to the war zone to relieve the suffering, and efforts to promote peace in Sudan, Africa's largest nation.

Mr. Frist, the only surgeon in the Senate, is a specialist in heart transplant surgery. He said he helped with medical procedures in a field hospital in south Sudan.

The visit to Sudan's Blue Nile region and Nuba Mountains was his second. He went under the auspices of Samaritan Purse, a Christian medical mission based in Boone, N.C., which operates in southern Sudan.

"Khartoum must stop bombing civilian targets," Mr. Frist said.

Sudan's civil war, which started in 1983, pits the Muslim-dominated north against the predominantly Christian and animist African south. The war and accompanying famines have killed an estimated 2 million people and displaced another 4 million.

"We can no longer turn our back on Sudan," Mr. Frist said in November when the Senate passed the "Sudan Peace Act." The legislation, which Mr. Frist sponsored, would require the United States to ignore Sudanese bans on U.N. relief flights. The bill awaits House action.

The United States has enlisted the United Nations to support sanctions against Sudan and has sent funds to nearby states Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda to mount a challenge against what it calls a terrorist campaign by Khartoum.

South Sudanese rebels claimed yesterday to have seized a government-held garrison town in the oil-rich Southern Blue Nile state, killing 15 government soldiers and wounding many.

Also yesterday, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African body seeking to end the war, announced it will send a delegate to Khartoum to arrange a fresh round of peace talks in Nairobi next month between the Sudanese government and rebels.

The east African organization has been pursuing a bid for peace in southern Sudan and has held several rounds of talks in Nairobi during the last seven years but has not made a breakthrough in the 17-year-old armed conflict.

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