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US Congress to consider post-Danforth situation

The US Committee on International Relations at the US House of Representatives is to hold an important oversight hearing on US-Sudan policy on Wednesday 5 June, in the wake of developments in the Sudanese peace process.

Senior US officials, independent experts and academics will make statements during the hearing, called by the chairman of the Committee, Henry J. Hyde, to help define steps towards peace in Sudan after the report to President George W Bush last month of the special US peace envoy to Sudan, John Danforth.

In his report, Danforth recommended that the US continue to serve as an intermediary between the warring parties in Sudan, that its participation must be "collaborative and catalytic", as well as "energetic and effective", and that the enforcement of any agreements concluded was essential for peace.

Danforth said the war between north and south was not winnable by either side in terms of achieving their present objectives, and that both the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) had shown that it was possible to agree on contentious issues and to permit international monitoring of the implementation of their agreements.

A fair allocation of oil resources could be the key to working out broader political issues, Danforth said, adding that while the agreed principle of self-determination (for the south) included the option of secession, a more "feasible" and "preferable" view would simply ensure the right of southerners to live under a government that respected their religion and culture. [see http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=27779]

The Committee will hear of progress on Danforth's four confidence-building tests for the government of Sudan and the SPLM/A, as key parties to the Sudanese conflict: a ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan to allow much-needed humanitarian assistance; the creation of zones and times of tranquillity in other areas for the delivery of relief; an end to the targeting of civilians; and, an end to the practices of slavery and forced abduction.

The US has emphasised that the warring parties "must be prepared to comply fully and completely with all agreements reached", and that they be held responsible for progress on these issues.

Among the questions to be raised in the hearing will be how the US can negotiate effectively or achieve additional leverage with the government of Sudan; the extent to which the warring parties are committed to peace efforts; and, how the US can limit the use of food as weapon of war in Sudan, according to a Committee statement on Monday.

The Committee would also consider how Danforth's proposal for the sharing of Sudan's oil revenues could "help to stop the war and end the destruction of communities living near oil fields", it said.

Participants will also consider why Khartoum has restricted humanitarian relief efforts in southern Sudan; how oil revenues might go towards the delivery of aid in areas outside the UN-led Operation Lifeline Sudan initiative; what strategies could preclude the use of oil revenues from escalating the war; how could awareness of the practice of slavery be spread; and how a secular Sudanese state might ensure freedom of religion for all.

The American officials scheduled to speak at Wednesday's oversight hearing include: Walter Kansteiner, Assistant Secretary at the US State Department's Bureau of African Affairs; Roger P. Winter, Assistant Administrator at the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance within the US Agency for International Development; and Michael Young, Chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Other participants will include Francis Deng, a senior academic at the US-based Brookings Institution, Massachusetts, USA; John Prendergast, Co-Director of the International Crisis Group's Africa Programme; Ken Isaac of the Christian NGO Samaritan's Purse; and Eric Reeves, a vocal opponent of the Khartoum government on human rights and humanitarian issues, based at Smith College, Massachusetts.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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