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Uganda Says it Will Return to Talks with Rebels


The Ugandan government says it will return to peace talks with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The Ugandan delegation broke off talks late Tuesday, after the rebels insisted that a cease-fire be the first item of discussion.

Ugandan officials say they will return to the negotiating table to reaffirm the government's commitment to ending the country's 18 year-long civil war.

The Ugandan delegation left the talks late Tuesday after the rebels insisted that a cease-fire be the first item of discussion. The government balked at the demand, saying that a cease-fire could not be considered until a peace settlement is reached.

The head of the Ugandan delegation, Ruhakana Rugunda, says the government fears the Lord's Resistance Army may try to regroup under the protection of a cease-fire. Rugunda says the rebels have in the past used cease-fires to loot and strengthen their forces and then launch fresh attacks.

Despite these problems, government spokesman Robert Kabushenga says the government remains hopeful the peace process will succeed.

"We will not accept the demands for a cease-fire," he said. "But we will continue talking after all we turned up in Juba when we were still at war. Because what they are asking for is cease-fire now and we are saying no. You sign the complete agreement now and the cessation of hostilities is part of that complete agreement."

The negotiations began last Friday in the southern Sudanese town of Juba. But there is a wide gulf between the two sides.

The Ugandan government is offering the rebels amnesty in return for their surrender. The rebel delegation is demanding compensation for their losses and want the Ugandan army to disband.

The talks have been further compromised by the fact that none of the senior rebel commanders are in attendance. Rebel leader Joseph Kony and his four top aides are staying away, saying they fear they may be arrested by the International Criminal Court for charges of war crimes.

This latest peace process is being mediated by the autonomous government of Southern Sudan, which initiated the talks in the hope of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in northern Uganda, which has killed thousands of people and displaced millions from their homes.

The fighters of the Lords' Resistance Army are infamous across the region. They are accused of mutilating and massacring civilians and abducting tens of thousands of children, some to fight as soldiers and others to serve as sex slaves.

Uganda has set a self-imposed September 12 deadline to come to an agreement with the rebels.

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