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Darfur Rebel Groups Suspend Meeting in Chad


A meeting of rebel groups from Sudan's Darfur region, aimed at finding a common position ahead of October peace talks, has been temporarily suspended. Phuong Tran reports from VOA's Central and West Africa bureau in Dakar, the groups, meeting in neighboring Chad, are hoping for greater participation in the preparatory talks.

The meeting of Darfur rebel groups is expected to resume early next month to allow more groups to be represented. The goal of the talks is to forge a common position ahead of peace talks with the Sudanese government, scheduled for October 27 in Libya.

Officials in Chad, which hosted the talks, say five rebel groups from Darfur attended the meeting this past week. But a key rebel leader refused to attend. Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur, founder of the Sudan Liberation Army, which started the rebellion against Khartoum in 2003, has refused to attend any peace negotiations, arguing that a cease-fire should be in place first.

Pressure is mounting ahead of the Libya peace talks. A meeting Friday of ministers and senior diplomats from more than 25 countries, that was sponsored by the United Nations and African Union, urged all rebel groups to attend the talks in Tripoli.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said participants agreed that any Sudanese rebel group that boycott the scheduled peace talks in Libya should face sanctions.

Political analyst Paul Simon Handy, with the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, says some rebel leaders will block peace deal progress by refusing to work with one another to prepare a peace deal with Khartoum.

"Some of the so-called rebel movements are actually armed bandits that have given themselves the title of political groupings. The real armed opposition is not interested in getting into an alliance [with them]," he explained. "Even the so-called rebel movement has totally different agendas."

Analyst Handy says peace and security in Sudan's neighboring countries largely depend on whether Sudanese rebels can agree to work with one another.

"The instability in the region is due to the existence of these bandits, who have a high spoiling capacity because of the weakness of state organizations to ensure security in that region," he added.

In addition to the political negotiations, limited deployment of a 26,000 strong joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force is to begin next month, with a larger deployment early next year.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since the conflict began four years ago.

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