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African Union team due in Khartoum to discuss Darfur talks

4/17/2005 4:42pm

KHARTOUM, April 17 (AFP) -- An African Union delegation will arrive in Khartoum next week to discuss arrangements for resuming peace negotiations between Sudan's government and Darfur rebels, a Sudanese official said Sunday.

"The government upholds its position on the need for dialogue and negotiation as a means for addressing the Darfur question," Agriculture Minister and chief negotiator Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmed told reporters.

The peace talks are set to take place in the Nigerian capital of Abuja in May.

The African Union has been trying to mediate an end to more than two years of conflict between Khartoum and ethnic minority rebels in Darfur, which has resulted in some 300,000 deaths and 2.4 million people displaced.

The partly political and partly ethnic conflict in Darfur pits two rebel groups from the local population of black African origin against government troops and Khartoum-backed Arab militia, the Janjaweed, widely accused of massive human rights violations.

The UN Security Council voted late last month to refer presumed war criminals in Darfur, among them Sudanese government officials, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The move infuriated Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir who insists his country has competent tribunals. He vowed not to hand over any of its nationals to the world court.

Ahmed also said his country was grateful to Chad for "reversing its decision to suspend its mediation with regard to the Darfur conflict."

Chad's President Idriss Deby agreed Saturday to resume efforts to mediate in the conflict after having talks in Ndjamena with Sudan's Investment Minister Sherif Ahmat Umar Badur.

The decision came after Chad received assurances that Sudan would withdraw a 3,000-strong armed force it supports near their common border which runs along the western Darfur region.

Chad played an important role in getting the Sudanese government to sign the January truce with southern rebels.

It was also instrumental in getting Darfur rebels to agree to attend previous African Union-sponsored peace negotiations in Abuja with the government.

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