Government hails Bush remarks on peace process

The Sudanese government has described as "encouraging" remarks made this week by US President George Bush hailing the country's ongoing peace process.

In a report to the US Congress on Tuesday, Bush said he would not reimpose sanctions on Sudan because efforts to forge a peace deal with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) had been made "in good faith".

"There is still much work remaining," Bush added. "It is now time to move the peace process to a new level where the actions of both parties replace promises as the measure of their commitment to peace."

Negotiating in "good faith" was part of the conditions set by the Sudan Peace Act, established by the US government last October.

Sudan's deputy ambassador to Kenya, Muhammad Ahmad Dirdeiry, welcomed the move and said the US had an important mediating role in the search for lasting peace in his country.

"In the past, the US has played a negative role," he told IRIN. "But the Bush administration has made a shift towards being even handed and playing a constructive role towards achieving peace in Sudan."

However, he urged the US government to repeal the Act, which he said was unfair because it was an obstacle to the peace process and gave preferential treatment to one party in the conflict.

"We feel the United States government should also send a signal to the SPLM/A that it would also be punished it fails to negotiate in good faith," he said.

Bush's report follows an upgrading of Sudan's human rights status at the ongoing UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

"This is a recognition of the efforts that we have made over the years to improve human rights in Sudan," Dirdeiry said. "All the previous accusations have been dropped and Sudan has been exonerated. But we have to do even more."