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Sudan Rebels to Resume Peace Talks

Peace broker Sant'Egidio community spokesman Mario Marazziti, third from right, and chief of external relations Mario Giro, second from right, at a press conference with representatives of the main Darfur rebel groups
Negotiations to end the conflict in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region are to resume before the end of the month. The announcement came following talks in Italy hosted by a Catholic group that mediates conflicts around the world.

The Catholic community of Sant'Egidio has been hosting meetings this week with representatives of the African Union and Sudan's main rebels groups, the Sudanese Liberation Movement, SLM and the Justice and Equality Movement, JEM.

At the end of their talks, the two rebel groups Friday issued a joint declaration that was read out by the spokesman of the Sant'Egidio community, Mario Marazziti.

"We make a solemn commitment to resume as soon as possible the Abuja negotiations, under the auspices of the African Union without preconditions," he said.

The two rebel groups had said in March they would not return to the negotiating table until war crimes suspects in Darfur were sent to an international court for trial. But no mention of this was made in the statement.

Instead, another official of the Sant'Egidio community who was responsible for the meetings, Mario Giro, declared that peace negotiations were expected to resume in Abuja in the next couple of weeks.

In their statement, the rebel movements also said they supported the African Union's plan to more than double its peacekeeping in Darfur by the end of September.

The Abuja talks stalled in December after the rebel groups boycotted the meetings saying the Sudanese government had launched a new offensive in violation of a truce.

The spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, Ahmed Hussain Adam, said the Sudanese government must show good will and that it is serious about peace. He urged the international community to apply pressure on Khartoum.

"The international community needs to speak in one voice to the government of Sudan that peace is vital and that you have to go to the negotiating table with good will in order to attain peace," he said. "This is very, very important. And we need the international community in order to show this seriousness to send envoys and officials in high-level to be present there so as to give the government a very strong signal."

The chairman of the Sudanese Liberation Movement, Abdolwahid Mohamed Ahmed said his group is committed to peace, but also determined to create a better society in Sudan.

"For us as a movement our struggle will not stop here," he said. "We as a movement we want to create a country depending on our citizenship rights. Citizenship rights means regardless of our religion, our skins, our race, our gender and sex. Our struggle to change the regime, to create a democratic regime is our aim and we will not stop it at all."

Darfur has been torn by violence since rebel groups took up arms in early 2003 accusing the Sudanese government of discrimination against non-Arabs. In response, a pro-government Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, launched attacks on African villages. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million driven from their homes into refugee camps.