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U.S. loses interest in 'paper peace' for Sudan

Thursday, June 5, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

CAIRO The United States has abandoned an six-month effort to end a civil war in Sudan.

On Tuesday, the Bush administration, saying the regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir was not interested in peace, suspended negotiations with Khartoum.

"At this point the leadership on either side aren't interested in meaningful peace and I won't be part of a sham or paper peace that won't really change the situation for the people of Sudan," U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Richard Williamson, said.

Sudanese Army and Air Force have continuously attacked rebel positions in Darfour and have been aided by Sudan's regime-aligned Janjaweed militia resulting in death and displacement of thousands.

Williamson said the focus of the dispute with Khartoum was the oil district of Abyei, the scene of new fighting between the government and rebels. He said the United States, without an ambassador in Sudan, has sought to mediate a settlement between the Bashir regime and southern rebels. Under a 2005 peace agreement, Abyei was to have been governed jointly by southern and northern Sudan.

"Until they want a meaningful peace, there is nothing the United States or others can do," Williamson said. "I've tried my best and I leave sad and disappointed. Right now our talks are suspended."

Officials said the administration had raised the prospect that a normalization agreement would remove Sudan from the State Department's list of terrorist sponsors. They said the removal of Sudan from the terror list would pave the way for military and dual-use sales to Khartoum.

Tensions between Khartoum and Washington rose in 2008 in wake of the killing of a U.S. diplomat in Khartoum. The diplomat was killed one day after President George Bush signed into law legislation that reinforced sanctions on Khartoum.

"What I can say confidently is that they said we will stop at this station," Nafie Al Nafie, an adviser to Bashir, said. "On our side, we left it open. We said we are ready. If they come back, we will engage."

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