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Sudan Declares Unilateral Truce

August 3, 1998

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ The Sudanese government declared a unilateral cease-fire Monday throughout southern Sudan, where a 15-year war has aggravated a worsening famine.

The announcement came on the eve of peace talks between the government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The truce, to take effect Tuesday, expands the scope of a limited three-month cease-fire reached in July.

``The cease-fire ... is to demonstrate the keenness of the Sudanese government to prepare the ground for the success of the peace talks,″ government spokesman Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani said.

``We hope the rebel movement will listen to the voice of reason and declare on its part a comprehensive cease-fire as well,″ Atabani was quoted as saying by the official Sudan News Agency.

A rebel official, speaking in Cairo, Egypt, dismissed the announcement as ``just a maneuver″ ahead of the talks. The official, Daniel Kodi Angelo, said he could not comment on the leadership’s response.

Aid workers estimate about 1.5 million people are facing starvation in southern Sudan, mainly in Bahr al-Ghazal province, as a result of drought and the fighting.

The U.N. World Food Program is dropping 9,500 tons of food a month _ at a cost of $30 million _ into the south in the world’s largest aid operation.

The last major cease-fire in Sudan, brokered by former President Carter, was signed in March 1995 and lasted two months. The government then extended it another two months.

The government called its latest truce ``a further measure in the continuing effort by the government to contain the humanitarian situation in southern Sudan.″

Tuesday’s talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will be the first negotiations between the government and the SPLA since May, when the two sides met in Nairobi, Kenya. They are expected to deal with the issue of self-determination for the people of southern Sudan and the relationship between religion and the state.

The SPLA has fought since 1983 for autonomy for the south’s Christian and animist peoples from the Islamic north. An estimated 1.5 million have died in the fighting and war-induced famines.

Meanwhile, three Roman Catholic priests working in Sudan were arrested last week in Khartoum, including one who acts as a liaison between Sudanese authorities and the local church, a Vatican news agency said Monday.

The three, Lino Sebit, Hillary Boma and William Nilo, were accused of involvement in explosions June 30 in the capital, according to Fides, the news agency of the Vatican’s missionary branch.

Sebit was arrested Wednesday and Boma and Nilo were arrested Saturday, the report said. It said Nilo was released after a few hours, but Boma and Sebit remain in custody.

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