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Darfur Peace Talks Adjourn

Following the end of peace talks in Nigeria between the Sudan government and rebel groups operating in the war-torn Darfur region, a spokesman said the government is relieved that the issue of security in Darfur has been cleared up.

The spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Ghaffar, told VOA that long-running peace talks between his government and the rebels have been delayed many times because the parties could not agree on the issue of security. "Since now, this issue of security and the issue of humanitarian relief - that makes 90 percent of the issue is resolved," he said. "Everybody is happy that this obstacle is disbanded."

Until Tuesday, the Sudanese government and the rebel groups were deadlocked over the issue of the so-called no-fly zone, a proposal within a draft security agreement that called for a ban on military flights over Darfur.

While the rebels supported the no-fly provision, the Sudanese government protested, saying it needed aircraft to defend civilians and Sudanese troops against rebel attacks and to deliver food to civilians.

Mr. Ghaffar did not say what caused the government to change its mind or if any compromise positions were adopted over the issue.

Other elements of the security agreement, which the parties signed Tuesday, included calls for the government to disarm militias in the area, including the notorious janjaweed, and to guarantee the safe return of refugees.

Mediators at the Darfur peace talks in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, have been urging the parties to sign the security agreement to end the violence in Darfur, which began almost two years ago and has displaced more than 1.5 million people.

The draft security agreement was put together by the African Union, which has peacekeeping troops and observers stationed in the troubled region.

The United Nations calls the Darfur conflict the world's worst humanitarian crisis, which has claimed at least 50,000 lives.