Home | News    Tuesday 16 December 2003

Peace talks break off between Sudan government and Darfur rebels

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NDJAMENA, Dec 16 (AFP) — Peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement, based in the troubled western Darfur region, broke off, a government minister from host country Chad said.

"We note with regret that the rebellion set out unacceptable terms and thus blocked the talks," Communications Minister Abdramane Moussa said. "There was a rift, this is a failure."

In Darfur, a mainly arid semi-desert part of Africa’s biggest country, clashes between government and rebel troops have claimed some 3,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people since February.

According to the Chadian official, the rebel SLM delegates in the Chadian capital Ndjamena made demands that Khartoum government negotiators dismissed as "unacceptable".

The SLM "wanted their own force to control the (contested) region during a transition period, be given a percentage of oil earnings, and claimed autonomy in the management of the region," Moussa said.

The talks had resumed Monday, a week after Chadian President Idriss Deby met in Khartoum with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Beshir on resolving security problems in Darfur, across the border from Chad.

Deby announced after those talks that negotiations between the rebels and Khartoum government would resume in Ndjamena, adding that "they will be talks about restoring peace" in Darfur.

The Chadian leader also denied any that rebel attacks being were launched from his country into Sudan, saying: "This would not be in Chad’s interest."

Beshir said after the meeting last week that the Darfur problem has become "a source of anxiety" to both countries, noting that insecurity in one country affects the other.

The latest round of talks has been aimed at restoring peace in Darfur by enforcing a ceasefire signed on September 3 in Abeche, eastern Chad.

But Moussa said that a tripartite team sent by the Sudanese rival sides and the Chadian government had been to Darfur and found that on the ground, separate groups controlled different areas.

"These different groups, which signed nothing with the Sudanese government, are not included in the Abeche accord," he said. "Each time one of them is attacked by government troops, the Sudan Liberation Movement says the ceasefire is being violated."

"The SLM doesn’t represent all the groups active there," he said.

When talks resumed in October, the two sides accused each other of violating the truce and of forcing the negotiations to deadlock.

The SLM took up arms against the Khartoum government in February, claiming that development in Darfur was being overlooked.

The rebellion in the western region is just part of Sudan’s wider civil war which has for 20 years pitted Khartoum against rebels in the oil-rich south.

The conflict in Sudan has claimed at least 1.5 million lives and displaced more than four million people. Talks are currently under way in Kenya between the government and southern-based rebels to end the war.

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