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Sudan SPLM delegation received at White House, State, and Pentagon.

April 4, 2009 (WASHINGTON) --The Foreign Minister of Sudan and Secretary General of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) continued their talks in Washington and New York holding meetings with US officials. The delegation is led by Secretary General Pa'gan Amum Okiech accompanied by Foreign Minister Deng Alor, the delegation was received at the White House, State Department, Department of Defense and US Mission to the United Nations. The SPLM, which heads the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, faces a deepening budget crisis due to lower oil revenues, arrears owed them by the central government and high military spending. Refugees International warned last week that the GoSS is on the brink of collapse and urged the US to help "secure an emergency financial rescue package in order to avoid a breakdown of law and order." The SPLM delegation reportedly asked the US government for assistance with the shortfall, but there are no signs of a positive response from Washington. The low profile visit signals the high stakes of the quiet political and diplomatic maneuvering ongoing by the two 2005 peace partners of Sudan, SPLM and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). In a barely veiled slap at the SPLM visit, Sudan presidential assistant Nafi Ali Nafi said was quoted by the official news agency (SUNA) that the US administration must establish direct channels of communication with the NCP saying that any other dialogues Washington conducts "will not suffice." The chairman of the SPLM, General Salva Kiir sent the high-level delegation to the United States for a visit lasting from March 28 to April 5, 2009. According to a statement from the GoSS to Washington, the delegation met the US Special Envoy, Scott Gration on Tuesday -- just a day before his journey to Khartoum -- and discussed the implementation of the CPA, Darfur Crisis as well as the economic and military support package to the GOSS. Speaking at a gathering of the Sudanese community on Friday, Amum disclosed that the delegation had been sent on short notice with the intention of meeting Gration before his journey to Khartoum. The SPLM team also held an interagency meeting attended by representatives of the State Department, Department of Defense, USAID and US Congress. On Friday, the SPLM team met the Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, a GOSS official affirmed. The delegation was received at the White House by Michelle Gavin, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs in the National Security Council. Together they discussed the current political situation in Sudan, said the GOSS statement. The SPLM leaders also met with officials in the Department of Defense led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whelan and discussed GOSS-US military cooperation in the field of security sector reform. Gration, who traveled to Darfur on Saturday, said today that Darfur is on the brink of a deepening crisis in the wake of the expulsion of 16 aid groups. Commenting on the same situation during a public event Wednesday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Foreign Minister Alor echoed remarks made earlier by other SPLM officials, saying that he was not consulted about the government's decision to expel the groups from North Sudan. Alor noted that he had read the news in the newspaper like anybody else and that he had been angered by the move. In a trip to New York, the delegation visited the United Nations headquarters and held meetings with the Deputy UN Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro and Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations. They also met with US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice, who until recently had been on personal leave, according to a diplomat in New York. Amum was chosen for the mission because he led a larger SPLM delegation to the US in August last year, he said. Kiir also hand-picked another member of the SPLM Political Bureau, Abdel-Aziz Adam El-Hilu, who was one of the key commanders during the war in the Nuba Mountains and its failed invasion of Darfur. El-Hilu is tasked with heading SPLM's efforts in facilitating an end to the Darfur conflict. Akot Lual, private secretary to the president of GoSS, also took part in the delegation. Lual had previously met at the White House with Gavin on February 27. Sudan is currently facing rising political tension in light of the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir. Alor revealed that the NCP asked the SPLM to stage demonstrations in protest of the ICC decision but the request was turned down. However he said that the SPLM wants the decision to be deferred to focus on resolving the Darfur crisis, while the NCP wants the decision annulled. (ST)

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Geographic Code:6SUDA
Date:Apr 5, 2009
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