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Seventh Round of Darfur Talks Begins in Nigeria

The seventh round of Inter-Sudanese Peace Talks on Darfur is underway in Abuja, Nigeria. The talks kicked off yesterday. They bring together the government of Sudan and rebel groups in its western Darfur region – the Sudan Liberation Movement, or SLM, and the Justice and Equality Movement.

The last round of talks ended in October with little progress, amid infighting within the SLM. The African Union says it hopes this round will be decisive.

Negotiators say the talks are aimed at reaching a permanent cease-fire agreement and settling regional issues on wealth and power sharing. In a statement issued yesterday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said individual leaders will be judged on their immediate action to stop bloodshed in Darfur.

Ambassador Sam Ibok is the spokesman for the African Union’s mediation team at the talks. He told English to Africa reporter Gilbert Da Costa in Abuja that the issues that must be resolved include using land reform to help end the marginalization of groups in Darfur, creating an equitable method for distributing revenues and resources to the area, and providing security to predominantly black internally displaced peoples and refugees who are still at risk of attack by mostly Arabic-speaking “janaweed” militias.