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Sudan and Top Rebel Group Sign Peace Deal

May 06, 2006|From Reuters

ABUJA, Nigeria — Sudan's government and the main rebel faction in the Darfur region signed a peace accord Friday to end three years of fighting in which tens of thousands of people have died and 2 million have been forced to flee their homes.

Majzoub Khalifa, head of the government's negotiating team, and Minni Arcua Minnawi, rebel Sudan Liberation Army faction leader, signed the deal here after days and nights of intense talks under international pressure.

"We are reaffirming that the fighting ends now in Darfur.... We shall go ahead with peace and we shall be serious," Minnawi said at a ceremony at the Nigerian presidential complex.

Two other rebel factions refused to sign, saying the document fell short of their expectations. Diplomats said that refusal could pose problems.

"There will be tests because not all have shown courage and leadership today," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick said at the signing ceremony.

The rebels who refused to sign also risk United Nations sanctions such as travel bans or the freezing of assets.

Sudanese rebels took up arms in early 2003 in ethnically mixed Darfur, a region the size of France, over what they saw as neglect by the Arab-dominated central government in Khartoum.

The government is accused of using militias drawn from Arab tribes to crush the rebellion. It denies doing so.

The peace agreement covers security and the sharing of wealth sharing and power. Three deadlines for an agreement had passed since Sunday because all rebel groups had rejected the original African Union draft.

To break the deadlock, an international team of diplomats led by Zoellick arrived this week to extract new concessions from the government. They obtained specific commitments to ensure the disarmament of the militias and stronger provisions for the integration of rebel fighters into Sudanese security forces.

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