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Darfur Rebels Endanger Peace Talks

The Abuja peace talks on Darfur are in danger of being stalled, following another split within the leadership of the main rebel group.

Internal divisions within rebel groups fighting in Sudan's Darfur region often stalled the peace process in Abuja. At least 19 senior officials of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement have broken ranks with their leader, Abdel Wahid Nur, and appointed a new leadership for the group.

African Union mediators say the new division could have serious implications for the talks.

"Of course, this kind of split is not helpful for the negotiators," said Noureddine Mezni, the spokesman for the mediators. "We are trying our best to bridge the gap between the different factions. We appeal to them to really put the interest of Darfur cause above any other personal interest and really we are trying very hard this days to overcome this obstacle. Of course, it will definitely complicate our negotiations."

The United Nations has called the three-year conflict in Darfur the world's gravest humanitarian crisis.

The current round of talks is considering issues relating to security arrangements, power and wealth sharing. Progress has been impeded by escalating violence back home, as Mr. Mezni explains.

"We're really concerned by the tense security situation in Darfur, characterized by continuous acts of violence and flagrant violations of the cease-fire," he said. "There is really an urgent need for the Sudanese parties to immediately stop the ceasefire violations and other acts of violence."

Another issue which is being debated is the proposed deployment of United Nations troops in the region, to replace African peacekeepers. U.N. officials say they will act only if the African Union submits an official request.

Representatives of the two rebel groups in Darfur and the government of Sudan have been meeting in Nigeria, since last November, in what was termed the last lap of a peace process which started in 2004.