Moving to end a 21-year civil war, Sudan's government and rebels agreed Tuesday on issues that had stalled a final peace deal, officials said.
The parties still have to agree on the details of a comprehensive cease-fire before the war, which has led to the deaths of more than 2 million people, could be declared over. It could then take months to determine whether the accord would translate to peace on the ground.
The agreement is not expected to have a direct impact on a separate rebellion in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
Negotiators plan to sign three protocols on Wednesday that would address the outstanding issues, officials in this Kenyan town said.
Samson Kwaje, a spokesman for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, described the agreements as "very, very significant."
Government and rebel negotiators late Tuesday were still finalizing details of the protocols, which cover power-sharing and the administration of three disputed areas in central Sudan, Kwaje said. Sudanese government officials were not immediately available for comment.
In Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, the official Sudan Media Center said negotiators had agreed to allow sharia, or Islamic law, to prevail in Khartoum, provided there were guarantees for citizens of Christian and animist faiths.
The latest peace process intended to end the conflict in southern Sudan began in 2002, and the Sudanese government and the rebels have already agreed on how to share the wealth in Africa's largest country and what to do with their armed forces during a six-year transition period.
But the talks stalled as the parties wrangled over how to share power in a transitional government, whether the capital, Khartoum, would be governed under Islamic law and how areas in central Sudan would be administered during a transition period.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he was pleased with the progress at the talks, saying the two sides were "very close to an agreement."
More than 2 million people have perished, most of them by war-induced famine, in Africa's longest-running war since the rebels from the mainly animist and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north in 1983.