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Mediators Struggle To Keep Darfur Talks Going

African Union mediators are struggling to keep alive Sudan's Darfur peace talks, which are taking place in Nigeria. Sudanese rebels are refusing to negotiate until government attacks in the Darfur region stop.

The talks were scheduled to resume at Abuja's International Conference Center, but instead mediators went to a nearby hotel where most of the delegates are staying.

The African Union spokesman Assane Ba said consultations were ongoing so the delegates could return to the conference hall and talks could resume. Late Monday, after rebels announced to reporters they were quitting the talks, Mr. Ba expressed frustration.

"We do not want the process to be driven by the media. We are helping to bring peace in Darfur so the AU. is helping, it is committed. The government of Nigeria is committed also to bring peace. Everybody, the international community, is supporting what the AU is doing," stated Mr. Ba. "I am telling you the international community has put a lot of interest in this thing, the resources as well as time. But those things are not limitless, the resources as well as the time, people have to know that. We are not here to waste time, we are here to find solution to this Darfur."

The spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Army, Bahar Ibrahim, says the two rebel groups will not continue in this fourth round of negotiations unless government attacks in Darfur are stopped.

"The positions of the two movements are the same. As the situation on the ground in Darfur is deteriorating we have no other alternative rather than to come to this conclusion in order to put the Sudan government in question and to stop the all-over operations, military, activities that are going on in Darfur," said Mr. Ibrahim. "So these are the stated positions of the two movements and we will see the reaction of the other party."

Government negotiators told VOA. there is no way army troops will pull back since they say soldiers are clearing out roads of what they call lawless elements to protect civilians.

The African Union mediators have said rebels, government troops, and pro-government militias are all violating the existing cease-fire and that the fighting must stop immediately.

Two aid workers were killed in the recent violence.

Mediators are still hoping to reach a comprehensive peace deal by late next week to end Darfur's 22-month conflict. It has killed tens of thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their villages.