Monday, April 30, 2007


More than 2m people are living in camps after four years of conflict. Sudan's government says it will meet Darfur rebels for talks being organised by the South Sudanese authorities.
Foreign Minister Lam Akol told the BBC he hoped the rebels would attend the meeting, which is due to be held in the South Sudan capital, Juba, next month.
One Darfur rebel leader said various leaders were meeting in North Darfur early on Sunday when their talks were interrupted by a government air raid.
At least 200,000 people have died since the conflict began, the UN estimates.
Past attempts at bringing the rebel groups and the Sudan government to the discussion have failed, partly due to divisions among the rebel groups.
Sudan Liberation Movement chairman Ahmed Abdul Shaffi said the various factions first had to agree on a common position before they could begin talks with the government.
Several people were wounded and a government helicopter was brought down when the air raid took place, Mr Shaffi told Reuters news agency.
The Sudanese military say one of their helicopters has disappeared in north Darfur, and they are now searching for it.
A peace deal was signed last year in Nigeria with one Darfur rebel group, but it has failed to stop the conflict.
The BBC's Alfred Taban in Khartoum says the chances of talks taking place are better than before.
He says the southern government is trying to boost the peace process because international donors have said unless there is peace in Darfur, there will be limited money going into the south for reconstruction following the peace deal there.
The 21-year conflict between north and south ended in 2005, with an autonomous government in the south.
On Sunday, protests took place around the world to demand intervention to end the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region to mark the fourth anniversary of the conflict.
Under the slogan "Time is up... protect Darfur", demonstrators in some 35 capitals turned round some 10,000 hourglasses filled with fake blood to highlight the continuing violence in Darfur.
But Sudan's foreign minister warned that external pressure on the government would not work.
"Those who think that the government will act under pressure are making a grave mistake. We do what we think is right for our people and this is what we have been doing all along," Mr Akol told the BBC's Network Africa.
What was originally a conflict between the Sudanese government and rebel groups in Darfur opposed to it has now spilled over into Chad and the Central African Republic.
Last year the government of Sudan agreed in principle to accept a joint African Union/UN peacekeeping force but Khartoum wants the force to be mostly African in composition and for the African Union to take the leading role, not the UN.
There has been a lot of diplomatic debate between Washington, Beijing, New York and Khartoum recently as international pressure is brought to bear on Sudan's government, BBC UN correspondent Laura Trevelyan notes.
The US and the UK have been persuaded to hold off on imposing sanctions against the Sudanese government for now to see if Khartoum does shift significantly and allow for a major deployment of peacekeepers.



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