"We are planning to host a conference of donors for Sudan after a peace agreement has been made," Norwegian International Development Minister Hilde Johnson said on Sunday.

"We are now mobilising the donor community in preparation for a peace deal and the implementation of the peace agreement, which is the most important thing," the minister added.

She was speaking to journalists after meeting Sudan's Vice-President Ali Usman Muhammad Taha and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang.

Optimism

The Norwegian minister said she was optimistic about a peace agreement being signed by the end of the year.

"I think that we have reasons to be optimists and to expect the completion of the agreement within the year, as they last week committed themselves," Johnson said.

The war in Sudan, Africa's largest nation, erupted in 1983 when Garang's SPLA took up arms against Khartoum to end the domination of the mainly - although not exclusively - animist and Christian south by the Muslim north.

Norway has been a close observer of the Sudan peace process, as part of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority Development Partnership Forum.