Sudan extends truce in south prior to peace talks
Rebels denounce action as 'a maneuver,' cites conflicts in other areas
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Web posted at: 9:53 a.m. EDT (1353 GMT)
KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- Sudan said Monday it was extending a limited cease-fire in the south to facilitate the flow of aid in the war-stricken region and set the stage for the resumption of peace talks on Tuesday.
The largest rebel group denounced the government announcement, and some diplomats called it a tactical move before the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army begin talks in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
"It's a maneuver because if Khartoum were serious about restoring peace to Sudan, it would have decreed a total cease-fire throughout the country," said Suleiman Bekhit, head of the Cairo office of the SPLA.
"The combat zone isn't only in the south, it's also in the (southeastern) state of Kassala, in the south of Blue Nile state and in the Nuba mountains," he said.
Conflict between the Khartoum government and the SPLA and internal fighting between armed factions within government-controlled territory has greatly contributed to a hunger crisis sweeping parts of southern Sudan.
The SPLA and the Sudanese government agreed separately last month to a one-month cease-fire to allow international relief agencies to get food to the south of the country.
The cease-fire was mostly restricted to the Bahr al-Ghazal region, where 700,000 people are short of food. Aid agencies say the famine is hitting more than 2.5 million Sudanese overall, mostly in the largely black, animist and Christian south.
Ali al Haj, deputy secretary general of the Sudan National Congress, said later in July that Khartoum would seek a longer cease-fire and to extend it to all areas of conflict.
In remarks broadcast Monday on Sudanese television, Information Minister Ghazi Salahuddin said there would be a "comprehensive cease-fire throughout southern Sudan as of tomorrow (Tuesday). This is to facilitate delivery of relief aid to southern Sudan and to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks."
The government move was not a major concession, said a diplomat outside of Sudan. "There wasn't much fighting in Bahr al-Ghazal anyway. And this is the rainy season, so there is less mobility, and the government has not got any major offensive anyway," the diplomat said.
The third round of peace talks in Addis Ababa are taking place under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a grouping of seven states in the region with a subcommittee on the Sudan conflict chaired by Kenya.
The negotiations resumed in Nairobi last October after a three-year hiatus, and a second round was held in May.
The SPLA has been fighting the government for the past 15 years for autonomy for the mainly Christian or animist south from the Muslim, Arabized north.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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