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US State Department Urges Uganda and Rebels to Finalize Peace Deal

The U.S. State Department is urging Uganda and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army to finalize a peace deal to end 22 years of fighting.

A statement says recent peace efforts have created the best opportunity to end the conflict that has seriously harmed civilian populations and destabilized the region.

Earlier this week, officials in Uganda said they believe LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony has moved his forces to the Central African Republic, raising concerns about whether he will sign a peace deal this month.

Uganda has given Kony until March 28 to sign the agreement. A cease-fire agreement ends on that day.

Rebels have said they will not sign a final peace deal unless indictments against top rebel leaders by the International Criminal Court (ICC) are dropped.

Uganda has said that once Kony signs a final deal, it will call on the ICC to drop its indictments.

President Yoweri Museveni says the rebels will face a system of traditional justice that will not include prison terms.

Four rebel leaders have been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ICC accuses LRA commanders of being responsible for the slaughter of entire communities in northern Uganda, and for the abduction of thousands of children used as fighters and sex slaves.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.