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UN Says It Is Unclear Who Will Take Part in Darfur Peace Talks

The United Nations Special Envoy to Darfur says some Sudanese rebels have declined to take part in the upcoming peace talks and it is still uncertain who will participate. The talks with the Sudanese government are scheduled to open in Libya Saturday. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

Just days before peace negotiations on Darfur are slated to begin, UN envoy Jan Eliasson says it is still unclear exactly how many rebel leaders will participate in the peace talks to be held in Sirte, Libya.

Eliasson says now is the time for all parties - civil service, government officials, tribal leaders and rebel movements - to come together, but he says some rebel groups have already said they will not attend and others have not confirmed.

"There are uncertainties both of a political nature, I must admit, but also uncertainties of a logistical nature," said Jan Eliasson.

Speaking from Eritrea via videoconference to New York, Eliasson said that, while he doesn't think the Sudanese government is trying to hamper UN efforts to bring participants in the talks to Libya, he does believe bureaucracy is getting in the way.

Eliasson says delays in obtaining travel permits and logistics in transporting civil service participants continue to be an issue. He says last minute confirmations may arise and he hopes some rebel leaders will join the Sirte talks later.

"There is a very grave responsibility resting upon the movements and the government to come to the meeting and facilitate also for civil society to come to the meeting," he said.

Key rebel leaders, including Abdelwahid al-Nur of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Ahmed Abdelshafi of an SLM faction, have indicated they will boycott the talks, and Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has asked for a delay.

Eliasson says the peace talks, which are being co-sponsored by the UN and the African Union, will try first to establish a cease-fire in Darfur.