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Tuesday, August 11, 1998 Published at 23:32 GMT 00:32 UK

World: Middle East

Egypt hosts Sudanese opposition talks

Fifteen years of civil war and famine have taken their toll on the people of Sudan

The leaders of a Sudanese opposition grouping are meeting for the first time in Egypt to plot the overthrow of the Islamist government in Khartoum. Barbara Plett reports from Cairo:

[ image: SPLA leader John Garang is waging a war in southern Sudan against the Khartoum government]
SPLA leader John Garang is waging a war in southern Sudan against the Khartoum government
All three of the key National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders were at the opening meeting - the prominent Arab politicians Sadiq al-Mahdi and Mohammed Osman Mirghani, and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) leader, John Garang.

Beside them sat Egypt's Deputy Prime Minister. He listened to speakers emphasise their determination to dismantle the Sudanese government.

Leading NDA member Omar Nour el-Dayem said the Egyptian patronage was a clear sign of support.

Omar Nour el-Dayem: "A bonanza to the opposition"
He said: "With the weight of Egypt and the Arab world and Africa... you can say it is a bonanza to the opposition."

But the Egyptians have been tight-lipped about their intentions.

For years Cairo has kept open channels with Sudan's opposition while maintaining often rocky relations with the government in Khartoum.

Observers say hosting the NDA does not necessarily mean a shift in support but could reflect growing Egyptian concerns with a Sudanese civil war which is expanding from the south to include the eastern part of the country.

Egypt also wants to prevent a division of Sudan which could affect control of the river Nile.

Cairo has been worried by recent discussions about a referendum on southern independence.

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