- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

The U.S. State Department has received word from Sudan that the government will agree to end attacks on civilians in the country's 19-year civil war, and allow international monitors to verify the cease-fire.

"We reached an agreement," said former U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley yesterday, but he added that the papers have yet to be signed.

Mr. Oakley has been a senior advisor to former Sen. John Danforth, the U.S. envoy to Sudan. He traveled with Mr. Danforth to Sudan in January for negotiations on ending the attacks on civilians.

A Sudanese diplomat who asked not to be named said: "We are very close to an agreement. There is nothing that would, at the this point, preclude the signing of the agreement barring attacks on noncombatants in the very near future."

Mr. Oakley said the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the chief rebel group fighting the government, has yet to agree to the proposal, though he expected it would shortly.

The issue of international monitors to Sudan's conflict has been the most contentious obstacle in Mr. Danforth's efforts to revive the peace process in Sudan.

The Sudanese have acceded to U.S. demands to cooperate with an international panel to investigate reports of slavery; for a cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains, which includes some international monitors; and to allow international aid organizations access to populations in the country for specific periods during the year for medical treatment, vaccinations and veterinary assistance.

But up until last month, Khartoum has resisted Mr. Danforth's demands to allow separate international monitors into the country to check reports of attacks on civilians.

An agreement would revive U.S. involvement in the peace process, which was suspended following a Feb. 20 attack by Sudanese bombers on civilians gathering in the village of Bieh for a prearranged food drop.

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