CHURCH LEADERS ill Sudan said they hope a visit to Africa by the U.S.
Secretary of State will help secure peace for their troubled country.
Colin Powell travelled to Sudan last week to witness a pact between the Sudanese government and rebel forces that they will sign a comprehensive peace deal by the end of 2003.
The Catholic Church said peace would help Sudan develop its infrastructure and raise the country out of poverty.
Fr Alfonso Rossi. from Rumbek Diocese, said services were. in the "Stone Age" and the country needed international assistance to help it to develop.
"There are no roads, no running water," he said. "Things we consider essential are not existent."
A spokesman for the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Regional Conference said the nation urgently needed peace.
"Whatever is done in the presence or without the presence of Secretary Powell, I hope that a basis is found for justice; a basis for peace, which as we say is more than the absence of conflict."
Secretary of State Powell said "The way is absolutely open to a real solution to the war."
Sudan's latest conflict erupted in 1983 when rebels from the mainly animist and Christian South took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim North.
The rebels insist they are fighting for greater equality for the South and for southerners to have the right to choose whether to remain part of Sudan.