Annan welcomes peace deal between Sudanese Government and eastern rebels

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan noted that the Government and the Eastern Front signed the deal on Saturday in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, following mediation by that country.“The Secretary-General expresses the hope that the agreement will consolidate the settlement of the conflict in eastern Sudan, and contribute to peace and stability throughout the country,” the statement said, adding that the UN is ready to help implement the pact.Government forces and the coalition of groups known as the Eastern Front had clashed in Sudan’s east, close to the border with Eritrea, for several years.The weekend deal follows the comprehensive peace agreement reached at the end of 2004 with rebels in Sudan’s south, ending a 20-year civil war in that part of the country and paving the way for power-sharing measures.But fighting still rages in the impoverished western region of Darfur, where an estimated 200,000 people have been killed and another 2 million forced to flee their homes since 2003, when conflict broke out between the Government, allied Janjaweed militias and local rebel groups.In May the Government reached the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with some of the rebel groups, but fighting has only intensified since then, especially with those groups which did not sign the DPA.Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, is on a three-day visit to North Darfur to inform locals about the UN support package for an enhanced African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan.Mr. Pronk met the governor of North Darfur state as well as senior officials of the local government, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding he also spoke with Andrew Natsios, Special Envoy of United States President George W. Bush.

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