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Darfur rebels affirm commitment to talks with Sudanese govt

سودانيزاونلاين.كوم
sudaneseonline.com
5/9/2005 6:23pm

TRIPOLI, May 9, 2005 (AP) -- Two main rebel groups in Sudan 's war-torn Darfur region declared Monday their commitment to a cease-fire, and to unconditionally resuming talks with the Sudanese government.
A cease-fire between the rebels and the government -- and militia allied to the government -- has been largely ignored in past months. But violence has continued in the large area of western Sudan where the U.N. estimates 180,000 people have died since February 2003, mainly from hunger and disease brought on by the war.

There was no immediate comment from the Sudanese government, but the rebels' statement could boost efforts to resume peace talks. The two sides committed to talks Jan. 31, but repeated statements since about a resumption have failed to bring any meetings.

Officials from the two rebel groups made the announcement after meetings with officials in neighboring Libya trying to mediate in the conflict.

"We announce in front of Col. Gadhafi that we are completely committed to a cease-fire," Khalil Ibrahim, senior official of the Justice and Equality Movement, said to a applause from a gathering of about 200 political, tribal and military personalities attended by Libyan leader Moammar Gahdafi.

"And we declare that we agree to resume negotiations ... without any preconditions," he added.

Representatives from the two groups -- Sudan Liberation Movement and Justice and Equality Movement -- said they would discuss any demands they had during the talks and not have them as conditions for the talks.

"After the cease-fire, our goal is to establish stability and to start reconstruction," said Othman Mohammed al-Bakr, an official of the Sudan Liberation Movement, the political wing of the Sudan Liberation Army.

Darfur has been torn by conflict since early 2003, when rebels of ethnic African tribes took up arms, complaining of discrimination by the Arab-dominated government of Sudan . A pro-government Arab militia launched a counterinsurgency, attacking ethnic African villages and committing atrocities.

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