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Darfur Rebels Quit Addis Ababa Peace Talks - 2004-07-17

The two main Darfur rebel groups have pulled out of African Union-mediated peace efforts in Addis Ababa, saying they would not return, until the Sudanese government has met six conditions the rebels have set for the talks.

A spokesman for the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, Ahmed Hussein Adam, says rebel leaders are angry that the government in Khartoum is so far refusing to recognize any of their demands.

The six conditions the Darfur rebels say must be met, before peace talks to end the 15-month conflict in western Sudan can begin, include disarming the pro-government Janjaweed militias and providing access for an inquiry into genocide charges.

Mr. Adam says leaders of his group and the other rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, believe the African Union-sponsored efforts have been a waste of time.

"As far as we are concerned, there is no political negotiation now in Addis Ababa concerning the issue of Darfur," he said. "The government insists to continue not to recognize all these demands."

Mr. Adam says the rebel leaders will head back home on Sunday. He says they will attend one last meeting with the AU Commission chairman, Alpha Oumar Konare, before leaving.

The 54-member African Union, headquartered in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, began separate meetings with the warring parties on Thursday, but failed to break a deadlock over rebel demands.

The other conditions the rebels have set are to bring criminals who committed genocide or ethnic cleansing to justice, allow unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations in Darfur, free all prisoners of war and detainees and find a neutral venue for future talks.

The Darfur rebels say Addis Ababa is not a neutral venue because of Ethiopia's friendship with Sudan.

The AU mediation followed high-level visits to the region earlier this month by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Both officials called on the government in Khartoum to quickly bring an end the conflict, which has killed some 10,000 people, and triggered what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations and human rights groups have also accused Sudan of helping the mostly-Arab Janjaweed militiamen carry out attacks against African villagers in Darfur, in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The government denies the charge.