The Sudanese government and the rebel leaders have committed to signing a peace deal by the end of the year, reports the British Broadcasting Company.
The two sides are currently meeting in Kenya to establish a timetable to end the civil war that has raged continuously since 1956, except for an 11-year reprieve from 1972-1983.
In 1983, the government dominated by Arabs from the North tried to pose Islamic law across the country, even in areas where the majority is not Muslim. The African Christians and the Animists in the South restarted their rebellion against the Islamic government.
Since the fighting re-ignited in 1983, 2 million people have lost their lives and 4 million have been displaced, reports the New York Times.
Secretary of State Colin Powell met with representatives from both sides Wednesday in Kenya, and said that a few critical issues remain to be solved, but he was confident things could be settled by the end of December.
The key remaining issues to be settled include the distribution of Sudan's oil wealth, how power will be shared among the various groups and whether or not Islamic law will apply in the capital, Khartoum.
According to the New York Times, some think that without the involvement of the United States, the talks would have struggled and no peace deal would be reached.
The United States has many interests in Sudan and would stand to benefit from a peace deal between the government and the rebels.
Sudan has long been on the U. S. backed list of states that sponsor terrorism. Groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas are said to be given safe haven to operate in Sudan. Also, Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum in the early 1990s and donated money to the city.
Sudan has been more cooperative on cracking down on terrorist organizations since the United States got involved in helping the two sides broker a peace deal. Powell said in Kenya Tuesday that if Sudan continues to crack down on these groups and a peaceful settlement is reached, then the United States would lift sanctions and provide economic aid to the country, reports the New York Times.
Also access to Sudanese oil plays into Washington's interest in a peaceful Sudan. Oil reserves in the country are said to be as big as Saudi Arabia and it produces 185,000 barrels a day, according to the book, "The World's Most Dangerous Places" by Robert Young Pelton.
Bush has been under pressure from the right-wing Christians in the Republican Party to stop what they see as the persecution of Christians by an Islamic government. Human rights workers have also been more vocal about reports of slavery and other atrocities, according to the BBC.
Another reason for the United States' interest in a peaceful Sudan is the attitude of the Sudanese leader, President Bashir. He has uncharacteristically softened his anti-American stance. He has also asked President Bush to help end the fighting in his country, according to a daily paper out of Kenya, the Daily Nation. He has even chosen to end press censorship in the country.
-Compiled by Sarah Stiles
Sudan agrees to sign peace deal by 2004
Published: Mon Oct 27, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:31 p.m.