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Friday, October 16, 1998 Published at 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK

World: Africa

Sudan seeks opposition talks

The SPLA began fighting the government in 1983

The Sudanese government says it is preparing to invite prominent opposition figures abroad to return to debate a bill allowing the re-establishment of political organisations.

The head of the committee responsible for the bill, Abdel Aziz Shiddu, said they would include the leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, John Garang, and the former prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Mr Shiddu said their safe passage would be guaranteed.

He said public discussions of the proposed legislation would be held twice a week.

A draft law allowing what are described as political associations was passed by the cabinet earlier this week, but still needs parliamentary approval.

Opposition groups have said an interim government which includes them should be set up instead.

US call for resolve

[ image: 15 years of famine and civil war  have taken their toll]
15 years of famine and civil war have taken their toll
The development comes a day after US State Department spokesman James Rubin warned that "the cycle of humanitarian disasters" was likely to continue" unless the Sudanese Government and rebel groups showed political resolve to end the African nation's 15-year civil war.

He said the continuation of a ceasefire between the government and rebels was "crucial" in allowing the delivery of relief supplies to the victims of the famine.

"Although the numbers of those dying from starvation and malnutrition have dropped significantly, relief organisations estimate that current levels of assistance will be necessary until at least October 1999," Mr Rubin said.

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