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Sudan Predicts Darfur Peace Deal in Early 2005


A Sudanese minister says his government expects to sign a peace accord in the western Darfur region within two months.

The minister for humanitarian affairs, Mohamed Yusif, said Tuesday in Geneva that a settlement would most likely be linked to a separate deal being negotiated to end 21 years of civil war with rebels in southern Sudan.

The minister dismissed allegations that Khartoum is responsible for atrocities against displaced civilians in Darfur. The United States and human rights groups have accused the Sudanese government of using proxy-Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, in Darfur to carry out genocide against black African villagers.

The Sudanese official repeated earlier government assertions that it cannot control Darfur rebels and what he called "armed bandits" in the region.

Khartoum is holding separate negotiations with Darfur rebels and the Southern People's Liberation Army. Although negotiations on a deal for the south are nearly complete, the United Nations says there has been little progress in resolving the Darfur conflict.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and AP.

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