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Darfur peace talks to resume June 10 in Nigeria: AU chief

5/26/2005 9:09am

ADDIS ABABA, May 26 (AFP) -- African Union-sponsored peace talks between Khartoum and rebels in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region will resume on June 10 in the Nigerian capital after a six-month suspension, AU chief Alpha Oumar Konare announced here.
"We strongly hope that the negotiations which will resume in Abuja on June 10... will quickly achieve success," he told international donors here, appealing for assistance for an expansion of the AU's peace mission in Darfur.

The talks were suspended in December amid persistent allegations of truce violations on both sides and had been set to resume on May 30, but AU officials said logistical problems had caused the brief delay.

"Darfur is an important challenge for the AU but also for the rest of the international community," said Konare, who is co-chairing the meeting at the pan-African body's headquarters here with UN chief Kofi Annan.

Annan, speaking to senior officials from NATO, the European Union, the United States, Britain and other collective and individual donors, said expanding the AU mission was critical to ensuring stability in Darfur.

"The situation remains unacceptable on the ground," he said. "The violence is targetted at aid workers (but) where the AU is deployed these things do not happen."

The AU mission, known as AMIS, is monitoring a shaky April 2004 ceasefire between Khartoum, government-backed militias and the two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

The AU is seeking 460 million dollars (365 million euros) in cash, military equipment and logistical support to boost its current 2,200-strong truce monitoring operation to more than 7,700 by September.

NATO, the European Union and individual members of the organizations have already indicated their willingness to provide logistical, technical, training support and materiel for the expanded mission and Annan said he looked forward to hearing specific pledges.

But he stressed that lasting peace could not be achieved without a peace settlement.

"AMIS is necessary to enhance stability but not to have peace, this can only be done by political negotiation," Annan said, lauding the Nigerian government for its hosting of the talks.

"The Abuja negotiation is the only game in town," he said.

The two-year old conflict in Darfur has killed between 180,000 and 300,000 people and displaced more than two million and is considered to be one of the world's worst humanitarian crises

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