- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

CAIRO President Bush's envoy to Sudan, former Sen. John C. Danforth, ended his four-day trip to the war-torn African nation, saying he was discouraged by the prospects for reconciliation after nearly two decades of civil war.

Mr. Danforth said in an interview in Cairo yesterday he had been looking for a way to get the Christians more involved in reaching peace with the Muslim government.

But on the trip that ended a day earlier, he did not hear what he wanted.

"The history of their grievances is so long, they may have given up. Their only position is to get out," he said, adding that he thought the Christians were not interested in something less than independence.

Sudan's Christians have suffered under President Omar Hassan Bashir's government.

Mr. Danforth visited a church where Khartoum's police tear gassed and beat worshippers on Easter Sunday.

He visited a polio vaccination facility in Mapel, where government-supported militias have made it impossible for doctors to administer the vaccine to rebel-controlled areas in the province.

He also heard government ministers deny accusations of slavery and abductions of non-Muslims, despite the fact he heard from the survivors of the practice during his last tour of Sudan in November.

"I don't think I can blame them," he said of a group of Christian clergy he met on Wednesday evening before departing.

"When people have been subjected to violence and discrimination over a long period of time, they feel they are not part of the society."

Nonetheless, Mr. Danforth said the civil war never will accomplish anything for either side.

"The fighting is going nowhere," he said.

Despite the evidence that neither side appeared ready to make a peace deal, Mr. Danforth said he had made some progress in his stint as the president's peacemaker since he took the job in October.

He persuaded Kenya and Egypt to work together through a regional peace process, hoping to get the two sides that had bickered in the past to present a united front.

On the ground, Mr. Danforth brokered a temporary cease-fire agreement in November that went into effect last month.

He also has arranged for more access for vaccinations in Sudanese areas where polio still infects children.

In addition, he has received assurances from Khartoum to allow an international panel to investigate the slavery accusations in the country, though as part of the agreement Khartoum insists that it include a footnote denying the claims.

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