US special envoy to travel to Sudan for talks

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US Special Envoy Scott Gration will travel to Sudan next week to hold discussions with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s National Congress Party and leaders of former rebels from the country’s south, the State Department said.
The talks will centre on issues holding up the implementation of a peace agreement between Sudan’s ruling party and the People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM.
Gration will travel to Khartoum as well as the Sudanese towns of Juba and Boma and to the violence-plagued western region of Darfur, the State Department said.
The discussions are timed to take place before Sudan’s first democratic election in more than 20 years, due in February, Reuters reports.
The SPLM fought against northern Sudanese forces in a two-decade civil war, which was supposed to end with a 2005 peace accord that created a semi-autonomous government in the south.
Northern and southern armies have clashed on occasion since the 2005 agreement, most recently last year in the central oil region town of Abyei, claimed by both north and south.
This is separate from the conflict in Darfur where United Nations officials say as many as 300 000 people have died and more than 2.7 million have been driven from their homes in nearly six years of ethnic and political violence. Khartoum says 10 000 have died.
Gration, a retired Air Force general with broad experience in the region, was appointed by President Barack Obama in March to lead US efforts on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur.

Pic: SPLM members