Sudan parties agree on peace principles, new talks scheduled

ABUJA, Jul 5, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Sudan's government and two Darfur rebel groups ended their fifth round of talks here Tuesday with a broad agreement on the troubled north African nation's unity and " justice and equality for all."

A document released at the end of the talks stressed "an effective devolution of powers" to regional authorities which mediators said would be further discussed in the talks scheduled for next month.

"Broad security arrangements to consolidate the restoration of peace shall be addressed in the context of a comprehensive agreement," according to the document.

Salim Ahmed Salim, the African Union's (AU) special envoy for Darfur, hailed the declaration of principles, saying that it "will not let down the people of Darfur."

The progress was made after more than three weeks of talks between delegates from Sudan's government and two rebel groups -- the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement.

"In order to gain momentum and give people sufficient time to prepare themselves, we shall recommence the next phase of our deliberations on August 24," said the head of the AU mediation team.

Violence flared up in Darfur in February 2003, and many thousands of people have been reported dead and numerous others displaced since then.

The Sudanese government insists that the Darfur conflict be resolved within the AU framework.

The pan-Africa body maintains about 2,300 troops in Darfur and is scheduled to expand its peacekeeping forces to 7,700 troops by September. It also sponsors rounds of peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebel groups.