- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

U.S. officials said yesterday they are cautiously optimistic that Sudan’s fragile peace deal will hold, despite a spate of violence after the death of longtime rebel leader John Garang in a helicopter crash over the weekend.

Assistant Secretary of State Constance Newman and U.S. special envoy to Sudan Roger Winter are set to meet today with Salva Kiir Mayardit, Mr. Garang’s longtime ally, who has taken his place as head of the southern Sudanese rebel movement and as first vice president in the unity government in Khartoum.

Sudanese authorities say at least three dozen people were killed in and around the capital in rioting after the news of Mr. Garang’s death, but State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the situation “was a good deal calmer” than it was Monday.

He noted that both the government and Mr. Garang’s Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement appealed for calm in the wake of the rebel leader’s death, and U.S. officials said they saw little sign that either side was trying to exploit the tension to reignite Africa’s longest armed conflict.

“We’re confident that both sides are committed and continue to be committed to implementing that comprehensive peace agreement,” Mr. Casey said. “Both sides have signaled that to us in our conversations with them.”

The government of President Omar Bashir staged a major show of force in Khartoum, where much of this week’s violence took place. Police, soldiers and armored personnel carriers patrolled the center of the capital, although sporadic gunfire could be heard in outlying areas.

“There were some limited clashes in the outskirts of the capital. Police have established control over those areas now,” Sudanese Interior Minister Ahmad Mohamed Haraun told reporters in Khartoum yesterday.

The worst clashes yesterday were reported in the Khartoum suburb of Hajj Yusef, which has a large southern community. Many are skeptical of the government’s claims that Mr. Garang’s death was an accident.

The government, which has battled Mr. Garang’s southern movement for more than two decades, also dispatched a delegation led by Foreign Affairs Minister Nafie Ali Nafie to the southern regional capital of Juba as a sign of respect for Mr. Garang. He is to be buried in the city Saturday.

The charismatic rebel leader’s death has thrown a huge shadow over the U.S.-basked efforts to end the civil war between the largely Muslim north and the non-Muslim south.

Mr. Kiir, 54, appealed for restraint and patience on all sides in remarks to reporters in southern Sudan.

“The message is to remain calm and peaceful,” Mr. Kiir said. “There cannot be any development when there is no peace.”

A collapse of the fledgling unity government would also be a huge setback to international efforts to end the murderous conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, which the Bush administration has said amounts to genocide against the black African population.

The Darfur crisis led to an intense U.S. and international diplomatic effort to secure a peace accord.

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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