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Sudan, Chad agree to bar rebel groups, normalize relations

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Feb 09, 2006 (TRIPOLI) — Sudan and Chad have signed a peace agreement to end increasing tension, pledging to deny refuge to each other’s rebel groups and to normalize diplomatic relations.

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A soldier from Sudan’s Darfur region smokes a cigarette as he stands guard during the rebel SLA unity conference in Haskanita, in Sudan’s eastern Darfur province Oct 29, 2005.

The agreement, signed late Wednesday, was reached after a day of talks hosted by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. The leaders of Burkino Faso, Congo and the Central African Republic also attended the talks.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Deby, pledged "to normalize diplomatic relations and to immediately commit themselves to work to prevent the presence of rebels on each other territory," Libya’s Jamhiriya news agency reported.

The final communique issued by the six leaders called on both Sudan and Chad to immediately end media campaigns, not to intervene in each other’s internal affairs, stop supporting the rebels from both sides and not use their territories to back destructive activity against the safety and sovereignty of one another.

The communique said an African ministerial committee presided over by Libya would oversee the implementation of the agreement.

"The Tripoli peace agreement will enable the two countries to restore their good relations after they were about to go into the wrong path," Deby said. "There will be no development without achieving peace and stability."

Tensions between the two nations have grown amid the continuing bloodshed in Sudan’s western Darfur region, which borders Chad. Sudan accuses Chad of harboring Darfur rebels, while Chad says Sudan backs two Chadian rebel groups made up of army deserters who seek to overthrow Deby. Rights groups have said Chadian and Sudanese militias in Darfur have launched frequent cross-border raids, killing Chadian civilians.

The deal also called for the establishment of an African force to preserve security on the borders. The number of countries involved or how to finance the force was not determined.

"We will commit ourselves to the agreement because we are seriously endeavoring to exert sincere efforts which will be practically reflected in improving good neighborly relations," al-Bashir told the meeting, according to Jamhiriya.

Gadhafi told the leaders that the root cause for the tensions was the conflict in Darfur, where Sudanese forces and Arab militiamen have been fighting rebel groups made up of ethnic Africans who accuse the government of neglect and discrimination.

"It is shameful that Africa resorts to weapons whenever there is a dispute. Unfortunately, we turn all our differences into wars, which gives an opportunity for foreign interference," Gadhafi said.

An estimated 300,000 people have died, mainly of hunger and disease, and some 2 million have been displaced since the conflict started three years ago. The Arab militias are accused of widespread atrocities against civilians.

(AP/ST)

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