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Sudan, Darfur rebels agree on truce

January 11, 2007|From Reuters

KHARTOUM, SUDAN — Sudan's government and Darfur rebels have agreed to a 60-day cease-fire and a peace summit sponsored by the African Union and the United Nations as steps toward stopping the violence in western Sudan, visiting New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday.

Sudan also agreed to let foreign journalists visit Darfur after a two-month ban and to remove a requirement for exit visas for humanitarian workers, one of the biggest obstacles to the world's largest aid operation.

Sudan's president, Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, "agreed to the start of a peace process that includes a 60-day cessation of hostilities," Richardson said.

The African Union-U.N. peace summit is to be held no later than March 15.

Richardson said the rebel commanders he met in Darfur had agreed to the cease-fire, which would begin on a date to be set by the U.N. and the African Union, which are jointly mediating Darfur peace efforts.

A statement by the Sudanese government and Richardson said Sudan would not use military aircraft painted white, a color usually reserved for humanitarian groups, and that Darfur rebel commanders could safely call for a conference in the field to be monitored by the African Union and the U.N.

Experts estimate more than 200,000 people have been killed and an additional 2.5 million displaced since mostly non-Arab rebels in Darfur took up arms in early 2003, accusing the government of neglect. Khartoum rejects Washington's description of the violence by pro-government forces as genocide.

African Union forces have been unable to stem the violence, but Sudan rejects a Security Council resolution authorizing U.N. peacekeepers to take over the mission in Darfur.

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