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African leaders to meet in Libya on Darfur conflict

سودانيزاونلاين.كوم
sudaneseonline.com
5/16/2005 9:51am

By Paul de Bendern

TRIPOLI, May 16 (Reuters) - Five African leaders were to meet in the Libyan capital on Monday to spur stalled talks to end a conflict that has displaced more than two million people in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has championed the cause of African unity, has invited the leaders of Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt, Chad and Eritrea to the summit.

Darfur rebels were also in Tripoli but were not expected to take part in the official talks.

"The leaders plan to discuss ways to reach a solution to the Darfur crisis and to move talks forward," a Libyan official said. "Gaddafi is also offering both sides of the conflict a chance to meet and exchange views in Tripoli."

The conflict broke out two years ago when rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government, complaining of discrimination. Khartoum is accused of retaliating by arming militias who burned villages and killed and raped civilians.

At least 180,000 people have died from violence, hunger and disease and two million have been driven from their homes.

A ceasefire signed in April 2004 has not held and peace talks sponsored by the African Union (AU) in Abuja, Nigeria have stalled with no meetings taking place since December.

The summit was to discuss a United Nations Security Council resolution to refer Sudanese accused of war crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The leaders were also to discuss a proposal to boost AU forces monitoring a shaky ceasefire in Darfur.

The two main rebel groups in Darfur -- the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) -- announced on Friday in Rome they wanted to resume peace talks, dropping previous conditions for new negotiations.

"The (SLM) movement considers that the only way out (of the crisis) is for your summit to push the Sudanese government to implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions," it said in a statement on Monday. It renewed its commitment to a ceasefire.

The SLM said it was committed to the Abjuda peace talks process and was ready for sincere dialogue, but "rejects any call to form a Sudanese court related to trying war criminals in Darfur."

Gaddafi has supported Sudan's refusal to hand over war crimes suspects to the ICC in The Hague.

(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Cairo)

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