- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

NAIVASHA, Kenya — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell pressed Sudan’s warring parties yesterday to move rapidly toward a comprehensive peace agreement, holding out a promise that the United States would review its sanctions against Africa’s largest nation if there is an end to fighting.

Mr. Powell spoke from Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, after meeting with President Mwai Kibaki, whose Foreign Ministry has helped mediate Sudan’s 15-month-old peace process.

Today, Mr. Powell is expected to meet negotiators near the Kenyan resort town of Naivasha and urge them to “throw it into high gear.”

Africa’s longest war erupted in 1983 when rebels from the mainly animist and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north. Twenty years later, the fighting has claimed more than 2 million lives, mainly because of war-induced famine.

“We now have a window of opportunity, a moment that must not be lost,” Mr. Powell said. “President Bush has asked me to come on his behalf to encourage the parties to move as aggressively as possible.”

Before his arrival, Mr. Powell told reporters that a peace deal would make it possible for Washington to review the sanctions imposed against Sudan “and the various listings that are in place.”

The United States has imposed sanctions on Sudan since President Omar el-Bashir seized power in a 1989 coup. Washington also continues to list Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum, the capital, in the early 1990s and had numerous business interests in the country.

However, Sudan has been credited with cooperating in the war against terrorism since the September 11 attacks, and Mr. Bashir’s government is eager to resume full diplomatic and business relations with the United States, which closed its embassy in Khartoum in 1996.

Mr. Powell said the Islamic government still needed to “take other actions” against terrorism, suggesting for example that it expel members of Muslim militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The government and its foes both agree that Mr. Powell’s visit is significant and demonstrates a U.S. commitment to the peace process.

Still, mediators and observers believe it could be weeks before a comprehensive peace deal is reached.

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