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Mediators give Ugandan rebels deadline to sign deal

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By Job Ongom

KAMPALA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Mediators for Uganda's civil conflict said on Thursday elusive guerrilla leader Joseph Kony must sign a peace deal by the end of November, and called on his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels to cease all attacks.

Kony's fighters have run amok along the porous borders between Sudan and Congo since their leader failed to sign a final agreement in April with Uganda's government, aimed at ending a two-decade rebellion in the north.

The mediators did not specify what action they might take if their deadline is not met, though countries in the region have threatened a joint military operation against the LRA.

"We strongly urge the LRA to desist from carrying out any attacks ... and unconditionally sign the final peace agreement by the end of November," said Riek Machar, the talks' mediator and South Sudan's vice president.

LRA rebels are accused of murders, kidnappings and rapes in the wider region of Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic in recent months.

"I am hoping that General Kony takes this deadline seriously. He should reconsider his position and start thinking hard to sign the (agreement)," Machar told reporters shortly after midnight following a day of talks in Kampala with government and LRA representatives.

Kony has repeatedly snubbed mediators by not showing up at pre-arranged meetings to ink the agreement, hashed out after two years of negotiations in neighbouring South Sudan.

Kony's war killed thousands of people and displaced nearly 2 million, wreaking havoc in northern Uganda and on large tracts of central Africa.

On Wednesday, Uganda's government warned the rebels that their leader must sign or face unspecified measures.

"What the government of Uganda wants is one thing, for Kony to sign," Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said. "Non-fulfilment of the obligation means they are opening the door for other things," he said, without elaborating.

LRA negotiators say their fugitive chief will sign the pact eventually, but rebels will not disarm until arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court are dropped.

(Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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