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Talks between Sudan govt, Darfur rebels postponed - report

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Nov 20, 2005 (KHARTOUM) — A 7th round of peace talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels was postponed indefinitely Sunday, the Sudan News Agency reported.

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Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture and chief negotiator, Majzoub al-Khalifa, addresses the fifth round of Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, June 10, 2005. (Reuters).

The talks were slated for Monday in Abuja, Nigeria, but Majzoub al-Khalifa, the Sudanese negotiator, said he was told by the African Union that the talks couldn’t resume then and a new date would be set. No reason was given.

The unexpected cancellation was announced a day after a top U.S. State Department official met rival leaders of a Darfur rebel group in the first such meeting on Sudanese soil.

Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi E. Frazer met Minni Minnawi and Abdel Wahid Nur of the Sudan Liberation Army in an African Union camp in El Fasher, South Darfur.

African Union spokesman Noureddine Mezni, who disclosed the talks, declined to disclose the subject. The U.S. has been pushing the two rivals toward a coordinated position in peace talks with the government.

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Robert Zoellick had met the two leaders in Nairobi on Nov. 8 for talks that were delayed when both factions walked out after his arrival, each protesting the presence of the other.

At the beginning of this month, Minnawi was elected leader of the SLA at a meeting that Nur boycotted and regards as invalid. The split within the movement, the biggest of the Darfur rebel groups, has complicated efforts to reach peace in the western Sudan.

The African Union’s chief envoy to Sudan, Baba Gana Kingibe, attended Saturday’s meeting, according to AU officials speaking on condition of anonymity. Kingibe has also pressed the two factions to coordinate, saying earlier this month that his organization can’t choose their leaders, "but we can tell them they better get their act together."

(AP/ST)

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