Home | News    Sunday 17 October 2004

Nigerian President Obasanjo, Gadhafi to meet on Sudan’s Darfur crisis

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By DANIEL BALINT-KURTI, Associated Press Writer

LAGOS, Nigeria, Oct 16, 2004 (AP) — Nigeria’s president meets Sunday with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to prepare for upcoming talks on the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, said officials and diplomats.

President Olusegun Obasanjo is to meet Gadhafi, Sudanese officials and other "brother heads of state to see how to jump-start" Darfur peace talks set to restart in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday, said Obasanjo spokeswoman Remi Oyo.

Oyo said the one-day meeting would take place in Tripoli. Sudan’s ambassador to Nigeria, Abdel Rahim Kalil, said he expected the leaders of Chad, Sudan and Egypt to also be present at the summit, although Oyo would not comment on that.

Darfur’s main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, indicated it would not attend the Libya summit, although it said it had been invited.

"We don’t have time to go there without knowing why we’re going there," said U.K.-based SLA spokesman Abdul Latif.

The other rebel group in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement, said it had not been asked to join the talks in Libya.

The two non-Arab rebel movements took up arms in February 2003 against government installations, saying they wanted a bigger share of power and Sudan’s resources. The conflict has since grown into a counterinsurgency in which pro-government Arab militiamen have raped and killed non-Arab villagers.

At least 70,000 refugees have died since March because of poor conditions in camps in the Darfur region, the United Nations’ World Health Organization said on Friday.

The talks next week in Abuja are to be brokered by the African Union, which Obasanjo currently heads.

A previous round of talks in Abuja broke down last month, with rebels saying Sudan’s government was seeking unreasonable security concessions from them.

Sudan’s government blamed the United States for encouraging rebel intransigence, after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sudan’s government and allied Arab militia had committed acts of genocide against Darfur’s non-Arab villagers.

On Friday, Obasanjo said his country would deploy 4,500 peacekeeping troops to Darfur by the end of November.

The 53-nation African Union already has about 300 unarmed military observers in Darfur to monitor a regularly violated April cease-fire agreement.

The Sudanese government is holding separate peace talks in Kenya to end another conflict, 21-years of fighting with southern rebels that has left more than 2 million dead. Those talks broke off for the month of Ramadan on Saturday.

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