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Sudan cease-fire talks fail

NAIROBI, Kenya -- A summit of East African leaders to discuss the civil war in Sudan has failed to secure a cease-fire agreement.

But Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and rebel leader John Garang did agree to continue seeking a way to stop the violence, Kenyan foreign minister Bonaya Godana told reporters on Saturday.

"The parties have committed themselves to work towards concluding a cease-fire agreement but in the circumstances it appears it was not possible to agree today (on a cease-fire)."

Bashir and Garang also agreed to appoint permanent negotiating teams to try to restart peace talks following a failed round last year.

The two men did not meet have a face-to-face meeting.

Millions have died from war, disease and starvation as a result of the conflict as rebels fight for autonomy for the mainly Christian and animist south from the country's Islamist government in Khartoum.

Summit host, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, had opened the one-day gathering with a plea to al-Bashir and Garang to have the "courage" to end one of Africa's longest wars.

"We should not be going round problems when people are dying," Moi, flanked by all the participants, said in an opening statement to journalists at his State House official residence.

"The process requires commitment, a genuine understanding of the concerns of other parties and the courage to compromise.

Both parties should demonstrate greater willingness to reach a negotiated settlement."

He appealed to the Sudanese government to agree to a separation of state and religion under a new constitution and urged the rebels to agree to a cease-fire.

As well as Moi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh were there to mediate.

Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki, who had been due to attend, was not present.

The summit was held under the auspices of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development which has been trying to negotiate an end to Sudan's civil war since 1993.

CNN's Catherine Bond said the meeting was seen as "a re-launching of the peace process."

"There is heightened interest now in this process because the United States has said that it will make peace in Sudan a priority.

The U.S. was "making it very clear that it wants to see [the $3 million of aid] used towards peace and not towards war," Bond said.

"There is great expectation on the part of the Sudanese government that the U.S. administration will actually try to see an end to this war."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, visiting Sudan's southern neighbours last week, promised to try harder to end the conflict and announced the first U.S. food aid to drought victims in the government-controlled north since 1989.

He said a review of Sudan policy by the Bush administration was almost complete and that the food aid was part of the new strategy, along with plans to name a special envoy.

But even as the leaders talked, fighting is continuing in large swathes of southern Sudan as each side tries to consolidate their positions ahead of the rainy season.



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