- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2001

The government of Sudan objected yesterday to a U.S. decision last week to provide $3 million in support to a rebel alliance just days before the first meeting in four years between the two sides in Sudans 17-year-old civil war.

"The news of today that the U.S. administration has decided to supply $3 million in support for the Sudanese opposition group, National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is a very disappointing development," said a statement from the Sudan Embassy in Washington.

"It came as an unexpected response to a bold step toward peace," the statement said of the Khartoum government´s announcement a day earlier of a unilateral halt to all aerial bombing in southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains.

Despite the pledge, rebels of the Sudan People´s Liberation Army (SPLA) said in a communique received by Reuters news agency in Cairo that government forces had burned 14 villages in a failed raid this week on rebel positions in the Nuba mountains.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters during his trip to Africa last week that the $3 million was to assist the NDA, an umbrella group of opposition parties, in negotiating with the Sudan government in Khartoum.

He said the money would go for nonlethal items such as office equipment and training in negotiations.

Mr. Powell said that any U.S. aid was meant to be humanitarian and the U.S. goal was reconciliation.

The Sudan Embassy statement, however, said that armed rebels of the SPLA would be the only beneficiaries. "The decision runs contrary to all efforts exerted to achieve a just and peaceful solution and will only contribute to more bloodshed and killing."

Mr. Powell met last week in Nairobi, Kenya, with nongovernment and humanitarian groups supplying aid to southern Sudan, where autonomy-seeking Christian and animist rebels are fighting the Islamic Sudanese government forces. Unlike former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Mr. Powell did not meet with rebel leader John Garang.

He sent the administrator of the Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, to Nairobi Sunday to meet with both sides in the conflict and to prepare emergency grain supplies to the north, where a famine is affecting millions.

In the latest fighting, the rebels told Reuters news agency they had repelled a government offensive in three battles yesterday, killing 400 government troops. It said the fighting took place in the west of Bahr al-Gazal province, 600 miles southwest of Khartoum. The statement did not say how many rebels were killed.

The SPLA announced on Monday that its leader, Mr. Garang, would meet Sudan President Omar Hassan Bashir at a peace conference in Nairobi on Saturday.

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