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Bashir Begins Darfur Peace Conference, Without Rebels


Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has opened a three-day conference he says is aimed at finding peace in the war-ravaged Darfur region.

No rebel groups involved in the conflict are attending the meeting, held in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The rebel groups dismiss the conference as an attempt by Mr. Bashir to win support on the U.N. Security Council. The council has the power to block possible war crimes charges against the Sudanese president being considered by the International Criminal Court.

The ICC Thursday asked the chief prosecutor in the case to provide additional evidence against Mr. Bashir within a month.

The prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has accused Mr. Bashir of masterminding a campaign of rape, murder and deportation in Darfur.

Supporters of Mr. Bashir attending the conference in Khartoum include the African Union and the Arab League, which have urged the U.N. to defer any move to indict the Sudanese president.

Those bodies and Mr. Bashir himself argue that the war crimes charges would hurt efforts to bring peace to Darfur.

Rebels in the western Sudanese region rose up against the Khartoum government in 2003. U.N. experts say the conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced some 2.5 million.

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

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