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NIGERIA-SUDAN: Darfur peace talks set to resume in Abuja on 10 June

سودانيزاونلاين.كوم
sudaneseonline.com
5/26/2005 9:24am

DAKAR, 26 May 2005 (IRIN) - Peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels from the western region of Darfur are set to resume in Nigeria in June, after a six-month gap, a spokesman for the African Union (AU) said on Thursday.

"The talks will resume in Abuja on 10 June, " AU spokesman Assane Ba told IRIN by telephone from the organisation's headquarters in Ethiopia. "It's because all the parties have agreed to come that the date has been set."

The AU, led by current head and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, is acting as official mediator in the Darfur crisis. Peace talks began in Abuja in August last year.

Nigerian government officials contacted by IRIN on Thursday declined to confirm a specific start date for the talks, saying only that the Darfur peace negotiations were due to resume sometime in June.

The war in Darfur, which erupted in February 2003, pits Sudanese government troops and militias against rebels fighting to end what they call the marginalisation and discrimination of the region's inhabitants by the state.

Talks between Khartoum and the two main rebel movements in Darfur --- the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) -- stalled in December amid allegations of ceasefire violations from all sides.

Since then, the AU has been involved in much behind-the-scenes wrangling to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

"It's the political issues that are going to be discussed," Ba said. "The AU has given them a draft framework for a peace agreement and the parties will be coming to give their input on that."

At least 180,000 people are believed to have died and about two million others have fled their homes in Darfur to escape the conflict.

UN officials reported earlier this month that attacks on civilians, rape, kidnapping and banditry had risen in April.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met international donors in Addis Ababa on Thursday to urge them to provide some US $720 million to help treble the size of the 2,200-strong AU peacekeeping force in Darfur and equip it with planes, helicopters and armoured personnel carriers.

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