Sudan: Darfur peace talks adjourn after brief session

By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA, June 12 (Reuters) - Peace talks on Sudan's Darfur region adjourned on Sunday after a brief plenary session, with government and rebel delegates yet to agree an agenda and format for the negotiations.

Delegates were to study a proposal from African Union (AU) mediators on a draft agenda and format for the latest round of talks, which resumed in the Nigerian capital on Friday. Negotiations would restart on Monday, negotiators said.

"We were briefed by the special envoy on the possible agenda. We will reconvene later," said Majzoub al-Khalifa, head of the Sudanese government's negotiating team.

The new round of talks hit an early snag on Saturday as the first plenary session was put off after the Sudanese government delegation rejected the participation of Eritrea in mediation.

Khartoum has often accused Eritrea of backing the rebels in Darfur, who opened offices in the capital Asmara last year, but Eritrea denies the accusation.

Mediators spent the whole of Saturday in separate meetings with the parties to try to resolve the issue.

The disagreement over Eritrea came after the Justice and Equality Movement said on Friday it would not accept mediation from Chad, which JEM accused of siding with Khartoum and being a "peace spoiler".

The feuding parties had expressed hope when the AU-brokered talks resumed on Friday after a six-month break that they would clinch a deal to end more than two years of bloodshed in Darfur.

The larger Sudan Liberation Army and the JEM rebel groups launched their rebellion in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of marginalisation.

The government responded by backing Arab militia to raid and burn non-Arabs villages, driving the people from their homes.

Tens of thousands died and more than two million fled their homes in the ensuing campaign of killing, rape and arson -- which the United States described as genocide.

Four previous rounds of talks in Abuja ended in stalemate, but the AU says a breakthrough was now possible because the situation on the ground in Darfur had improved substantially.

The agenda for the talks will have to tackle a wide range of rebel demands that include bringing refugees home, justice for war criminals, land rights for Darfur tribes, boundary changes and power-sharing.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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