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UN-AU Urge Darfur Rebels to Come to Negotiating Table


Participants at a United Nations-African Union sponsored meeting on Darfur have urged all rebel groups to attend peace talks next month in Libya and say those that boycott could face consequences. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Ministers and senior diplomats from more than 25 countries, the European Union and the Arab League attended Friday's meeting on Darfur. The closed-door session was intended to mobilize international support behind upcoming political negotiations set for October 27 in Libya.

One of the issues still to be resolved is getting all the rebel groups to the negotiating table with the Sudanese government.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte says participants agreed that if some rebel groups refuse to participate they should face consequences. "If an important rebel group chooses not attend, not to send a representative, that should not be a cost-free choice. They should also bear some cost for not coming to participate in the peace process. Well, we are prepared to put sanctions. The notion of sanctions is not limited to the government alone, it also relates to rebel group leaders," he said.

Sudan's Foreign Minister Lam Akol Ajawan confirmed that parties who boycott could face punishment. "The meeting stressed the fact that any party that does not participate in those talks or obstructs in any way the peaceful process will be faced with firm and effective punitive measures," he said.

One rebel group,the Sudanese Liberation Army, has vowed not to participate in the peace talks in Libya.

Deployment of the 26,000 strong joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force was also discussed. The troops are to begin limited deployment next month, with a larger deployment early next year.

The United Nations has warned that the force, which is to be predominantly African in character, will not be effective without key contributions from non-African countries. Sudan has been reluctant about accepting contributions from some nations. Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol Ajawin. "We do not need them. We have 190 percent of African countries, so even some of them will not be considered," he said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who co-chaired the meeting with African Union head Alpha Oumar Konare, said the three tracks - securing a political solution, deploying peacekeepers and providing humanitarian and recovery assistance to civilians should proceed hand-in-hand. He added that the October negotiations in Libya must be the final phase for final settlement of this conflict.

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

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