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Ceasefire deal tabled for Sudan

3/13/2006 5:58pm

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) - African Union mediators presented ceasefire proposals Sunday for the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, asking rebels and the Sudanese government to work together to end military activity against relief supply routes and refugee camps.

The new proposals require forces of the rebel Sudanese Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement to withdraw behind buffer zones specified by African Union peacekeepers, and work with the government to end military activities affecting humanitarian aid and the refugees.

Both rebel and Sudan government delegations meeting in the capital, Abuja, confirmed they were studying the new proposals.

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in Chad in April 2004 and negotiations in Abuja to end the war in Darfur between the government and two rebel movements, fighting has continued unabated in the western Sudanese region, the mediators said in a statement.

According to Sam Ibok, head of the African Union mediation team, "today, the humanitarian agencies in Darfur are reaching fewer people than they did when that ceasefire agreement was signed."

More than a year of talks between the rebels and the government have failed to achieve an end in the conflict that has killed more than 180,000 people and driven millions more from their homes.

Decades of low-level tribal clashes over land and water in the Darfur region erupted into large-scale violence in early 2003 when ethnic African tribes took up arms, accusing the Arab-dominated central government of neglect.

The government is accused of responding by unleashing Arab tribal militias known as the Janjaweed to murder and rape civilians and lay waste to villages. The central government denies backing the Janjaweed.

The African Union statement says its plans are based on commitments made previously by the rival parties.

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