updated 6/18/2005 10:22:58 PM ET 2005-06-19T02:22:58

Sudan signed a reconciliation deal with one of the country’s largest opposition groupings Saturday, seeking to end a 16-year conflict with an agreement officials hope will also help resolve the bloody fighting in Darfur.

The accord with the National Democratic Alliance is part of the government’s drive to clean up Sudan’s multiple political and military conflicts after reaching a peace deal in January with southern rebels that ended a 21-civil war that killed 2 million people.

“We’ve put our hands together and unified our goals to compensate the people of Sudan for all what they’ve missed on during the era of conflicts,” said Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir at a signing ceremony attended by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The alliance includes 13 mainly northern political parties, which have been trying to loosen el-Bashir’s lock on power since he came to power in a 1989 military coup.

The armed wings of the various NDA factions clashed with government troops in eastern Sudan and waged a campaign of sabotage in the 1990s, but there has been no violence in recent years.

Under the reconciliation agreement, the NDA will be incorporated into a power-sharing government being set up under the government’s peace deal with the main southern rebel army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

There is still no agreement, however, over how many seats the alliance will hold and to what extent its fighters will be incorporated into the national army.

All sides hope the reconciliation will help end the bloodshed in the western region of Darfur, where at least 180,000 people have died and 2 million been displaced during two years of violence. The NDA has said it and southern rebels have influence with rebels in Darfur and can help in peace talks with the government.

The Darfur rebels and the Umma Party — led by Sadiq el-Mahdi, the elected prime minister ousted by el-Bashir in 1989 — are the only parties that have not yet resolved their differences with the government.

In Sudan’s long civil war, southern rebels — mostly Christians and animists — were resisting domination by the mostly Muslim north. Under the peace agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the south will be autonomous with its own army while the rebels join the power-sharing government for a six-year interim period. Afterward, the 10 southern states will hold a referendum on independence.

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