Watching - and Aiding - Sudan

The world should not take its eyes off of one of Africa's largest countries, Sudan. Last week, that war-ravaged nation saw the beginning of hope that Arabs and Christians could work together in a unity government.

The new negotiated setup in Khartoum is fragile, but its success will clearly mark the end of a 21-year civil war between the largely Arab north and mainly Christian south that has left more than 2 million dead.

The new government will need billions in foreign aid to keep the peace, and to help resolve two remaining insurgencies - Darfur and one in the east - that threaten to split up this vast country. The United States offered to give nearly $5 billion to help develop the south, where much of the war took place - and where the nation's sizable oil reserves lie. Congress should support that largess.

Key to the agreement setting up the unity government, in fact, is a sharing of Sudan's oil wealth, as well as power sharing. Oil revenues are to be split evenly between the south and the north. Any dispute over that distribution could unravel the political unity.

The unity pact has been welcomed by the Sudanese. Over a million people showed up July 9 to greet the new vice-president, John Garang, the leader of the main rebel force in the south. Weariness of war, and a desire to raise and educate their children in peace, will provide a needed popular momentum to overcome any big disputes in the new government.

The US has a keen interest in Sudan's success. Once a base for Osama bin Laden, Sudan has slowly become a helpmate in the war on terrorism. US aid money will be well spent to restore this country, make it more democratic, and end its huge refugee problem. Africa needs a model for how to end civil wars.

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