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Talks to Resume in Nigeria on Darfur Crisis

A fresh round of talks aimed at ending fighting in Sudan's Darfur region is set to begin in Nigeria Friday. African Union leaders say they are optimistic, but an analyst who follows the region, notes that previous AU-brokered negotiations have failed to end the violence that has left tens-of-thousands of people dead and many more displaced.

The current AU chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, is hopeful that talks scheduled to open Friday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, will bring, what his spokeswoman termed, "a comprehensive solution" to the Darfur crisis.

Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir expressed similar optimism, saying earlier this week that he hoped the Abuja meeting would be the last.

But Africa analyst for the London based research group, Oxford Analytica, Jason Mosley says indications are not good that the talks will make much progress toward ending the crisis.

"I'm not expecting a dramatic announcement to come out of tomorrow," he said. "But what's good is that we're getting people back to the table. It's certainly not going to be anything earth-shaking though."

Mr. Mosley cites recent fighting between the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, the two rebel groups that have been fighting for control over the western province, as a sign they are not yet ready to negotiate seriously.

And he says, he also has doubts about the sincerity of the Sudanese government.

"We also have to take into consideration that the government in Khartoum is not necessarily interested in seeing this conflict ended," he said. " As long as it draws out, it gives them leverage with the international community."

Rebel groups have been fighting the Sudanese army and pro-government Arab militias since February 2003. Rebels say the government actively supports the militias, known as Janjaweed, who are accused of widespread and systematic murder, rape and torture against Darfur's mainly black population.

The United States government has in the past called the violence genocide; a term that many experts say makes the international community responsible for intervening to end the conflict. The European-American alliance, NATO, and the European Union are currently both planning to help airlift more African troops into the troubled region.

So far, around 2,700 AU troops are on the ground to protect international observers monitoring an April 2004 cease-fire that is routinely violated by all sides. The AU forces do not have a mandate to intervene to protect civilians.