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Ugandan Interior Minister Says Deal Soon To Be Reached With LRA Rebels

Uganda's interior minister has told VOA his government and the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group will likely sign a peace agreement soon to end 18 years of civil war in the north.

Ugandan Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said Tuesday peace talks between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group, or LRA, are just about to bear fruit.

"We have agreed that we should end hostilities. We have been exchanging detailed notes on the copies of the draft Memorandum of Understanding and we are now in the final stages of that exchange of our notes," said Mr. Rugunda. "We are more-or-less soon reaching the Memorandum of Understanding. And when that is finalized, we are going to sign it. And, indeed, we are going to sign it, I don't see any major obstacle."

Mr. Rugunda would not say when he expects the deal to be signed.

Enabling the process is an 18-day limited ceasefire the government began last Friday in areas near the northern towns of Gulu and Kitgum.

Talks between the government and LRA officials have been taking place in northern Uganda since late last year. During that time, there have been several ceasefires that the government claims have been violated by the rebels.

The two sides were supposed to sign an agreement on New Year's Eve, but the deal fell through when the rebels said they needed more time.

There are hopes that the agreement under discussion will pave the way for negotiations between the two sides to end the 18-year-old insurgency, in which more than 20,000 children have been kidnapped, more than 1.5 million people displaced and thousands of local residents maimed and killed.

Over the years, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to hold peace talks between the government and the rebels to end the violence.