Hopes rose Monday that a threatened famine in south Sudan has been averted after the Khartoum government gave permission for extra aircraft to fly supplies to the stricken area.

The United Nations said Sunday that the Sudan government had approved a U.N. request for four more aircraft to fly urgently needed relief supplies to rebel-controlled areas in south Sudan.The permission came on the eve of a new round of peace talks in Nairobi between the Sudan government and rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

One diplomat said it was no coincidence that the approval for extra flights coincided with a visit to the region by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who arrived in Kenya on Sunday on the third leg of an eight-nation African tour.

Annan has rearranged his schedule for Monday in order to meet the Nairobi head of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), an umbrella organization of U.N. and non-governmental organizations controlling relief operations in the vast war-divided country.

Khartoum government officials and SPLA leaders were due later on Monday to begin a new round of peace talks under the direction of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, a group that seeks to mediate in regional conflicts.

The Moslem Arabised north has been battling black Christian or animist rebels in the south for over a decade and hundreds of thousands of civilians have been affected by the conflict. A drought last year added to Sudan's woes.

OLS on Sunday was given permission to use three additional Hercules C-130 aircraft and one Buffalo aircraft in response to fears of famine in south Sudan.