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Sudan Leader Meets With Opposition

November 25, 1999

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ Sudan’s president met Thursday in Djibouti with a former prime minister whom he ousted 10 years ago in a military coup, Sudanese television reported.

President Omar el-Bashir arrived in Djibouti earlier Thursday to take part in a summit meeting of the regional Inter-governmental Authority on Development, which is scheduled to discuss a peace plan for Somalia proposed by Djibouti’s president, Ismael Omar Guellah.

Sudanese television did not give details of el-Bashir’s meeting with Sadiq el-Mahdi, the former prime minister who now leads the opposition Umma Party.

El-Mahdi lives in exile in Egypt and Eritrea and is a prominent member of the National Democratic Alliance, an umbrella group of exiled Sudanese opposition parties and southern Sudanese rebels fighting for autonomy for their largely Christian and animist region. Their joint aim is to topple el-Bashir’s government.

An estimated 2 million people have died in Sudan’s 16-year-old civil war, many from war-related famine, and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes.

The president and el-Mahdi were supposed to meet on Nov. 19 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss ways to end the civil war, but el-Mahdi failed to show.

Thursday’s meeting in Djibouti could be linked to the latest attempts by el-Bashir’s government to bring the opposition back to mainstream politics.

El-Bashir issued several decrees on Monday scrapping laws adopted against the opposition in an effort to promote national reconciliation. He ordered the release of all political detainees in Sudan, the return of confiscated properties to opposition leaders, and the lifting of travel bans and of freezes on their bank accounts.

On Friday, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development is to discuss Djibouti’s plan on Somalia, which is aimed at reducing the power of warlords who have laid waste to the country since President Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

In addition to Djibouti and Sudan, other IGAD members include Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea and Uganda. One member, Somalia, which has not had a central government since 1991, does not participate.

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