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4 African leaders arrive in Libya for Darfur summit

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Nov 21, 2006 (TRIPOLI) — Four Arab and African heads of state arrived in Libya on Tuesday for a summit on the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, hosted by Moammar Gadhafi.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Chadian President Idriss Deby and Eritrean President Isaias Aferwerki flew to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, where they were scheduled to hold talks late Tuesday with Libyan leader Gadhafi.

Central African President Francois Bozize was expected to arrive on Tuesday evening, making the summit a six-nation affair.

An African diplomat said the leaders would coordinate their efforts to try to resolve the crisis in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million people have had to flee their homes during the past three and a half years of fighting.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to reveal the meeting’s agenda, said the summit would urge the Darfur rebels who rejected the May peace agreement to change their position and sign it.

The African leaders support Sudan’s cautious attitude toward deploying U.N. troops in Darfur.

While President al-Bashir had long rejected such a deployment, since Thursday his government has moved toward accepting a combined force of U.N. and African Union troops in Darfur.

However, on Sunday Gadhafi weighed in against allowing U.N. forces in Darfur, saying their presence would amount to a return to "colonialism" and Sudan’s army would do a better job than U.N. peacekeepers at stopping the violence.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday that Sudan had agreed in principle to a combined U.N.-AU force, which could provide for the addition of up to 17,000 soldiers and 3,000 police officers in Darfur. The AU has now just 7,000 in the region.

The conflict in Darfur has recently escalated with pro-government militia known as janjaweed stepping up attacks on villages.

The Sudanese army has denied any connection to the janjaweed attacks, but U.N. and A.U. officials accuse it of backing the militia and co-ordinating military operations with it.

(AP)

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