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Sudanese Rebels Reluctant to Disarm

September 07, 2004|From Times Wire Services

ABUJA, Nigeria — Talks aimed at pacifying Sudan's violence-torn Darfur region are deadlocked, a top African Union commander said Monday, appealing to the Sudanese government and rebels to compromise.

The two-week talks in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, have failed to move past the crucial question of disarming. Rebels say they will lay down their guns only after Sudan's pro-government militias, known as the janjaweed, do so.

"It appears deadlocked, as the two sides are holding to their hard-line positions," said Brig. Gen. Festus Okwonko, a mediator and commander of the African Union's cease-fire monitoring troops in Darfur.

Negotiations are aimed at ending a 19-month conflict in Darfur that has killed tens of thousands of people and driven more than 1 million civilians from their homes. The Arabic-speaking janjaweed are accused of carrying out atrocities in attacks on Sudanese villages.

The two rebel movements -- the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement -- draw their support from tribes in the region. Sudan's government is accused of backing the janjaweed in an effort to stamp out the rebellion, a charge officials in Khartoum, the capital, deny.

Meanwhile, the U.N. special envoy to Sudan said the time was not right to impose sanctions on Khartoum.

On a visit to Norway, Jan Pronk instead urged the international community to increase pressure on Sudan. The United Nations wants Khartoum to accept an international force to help stop the bloodshed.

"Sanctions [are] the last instrument. But it is not yet time to use the last instrument," Pronk said after talks with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen.

The United Nations has proposed sending about 3,000 African Union observers and troops, and 1,100 police. But Pronk has said many more are needed.

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