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Zoellick aims to keep up pressure with Sudan trip

4/14/2005 8:09am

Backed by huge new pledges of international aid, US deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick aims to keep pressure on Sudan to implement a North-South peace deal and end killings in Darfur with a two-day visit.

He is due to leave Jordan for the Sudanese capital Khartoum early this morning to meet Ali Osmrran Mohamed Taha, the first vice president, and leaders of the former Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), who in January signed a peace agreement with the government ending two decades of civil war in the south.

On Friday, he travels to Rumbek for talks with John Garang, the SPLM chairman, and then visits El Fasher camp where thousands of Darfur's internally displaced persons are being housed.

Keep momentum
Zoellick's trip is intended to keep up the momentum after donors exceeded Sudan's aid requests Tuesday by pledging $4.5 billion at an international conference in Oslo to help the south recover from Africa's longest civil war.

During that meeting, Zoellick, the state department's number two player, warned Khartoum that the aid hinged on a halt to atrocities in the western region of Darfur. President George W. Bush's decision to send Zoellick on a round of Sudan-related diplomacy has cheered people who feared the country would be relegated to the US policy back burner.

But experts are waiting to see if the trip, coupled with the administration's calls for ending violence in Darfur and elsewhere, translates into the kind of action and leadership the crisis requires. Two million died and almost double that fled their homes in the North-South conflict. Aid is needed to stave off hunger, help refugees who are returning home and build schools, roads and hospitals. One in four children in the south dies before the age of five.

Washington has called the killing and atrocities genocide, a charge the Khartoum government rejects. - Reuters

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