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Darfur Talks Deadlocked Despite New Deadline

Senior Western and African diplomats have intensified their mediation at the deadlocked Darfur talks in Abuja.

Darfur's two main rebel groups, the SLM and JEM, have come under more pressure in the past 24 hours to endorse a peace deal in Abuja. The Sudan government had accepted the 85-page document but the rebels are holding out for more concessions.

Senior diplomats from the United States, Canada, Britain, and Libya are on hand to press the Sudanese government and rebels to a compromise.

Even as mediators seek an end to the conflict, U.N. officials have reported an upsurge of fighting in Darfur, where a three-year conflict has led to the death of about 200,000 people and the displacement of millions.

A senior official of the rebel SLM, Niemat Ahmadai, told VOA that it is important for an agreement to be reached in Abuja for the sake of the women and children in Darfur.

"Really, women and child [children] have suffered from this Darfur crisis and so that is what we are here for," he explained, "trying to do our best to make peace and the deadlock of the peace talks here, I think that ... hope we will do all our best not to leave a single opportunity to make peace because of the suffering of our people."

Mediators say deep-seated animosity and mistrust are undermining the peace process. Ahmadai says the people of Darfur have little reason to trust the government in Khartoum.

"The movements, they do not trust the government of Sudan," he said. "Really, we cannot trust this government of Sudan because a government that kills its own people and commits genocide against its people, that you cannot trust him [it] anymore."

The international community had consistently assured the Darfur rebels that it will guarantee the strict implementation of an agreement reached in Abuja. Ahmadai wants written guarantees.

"The guarantee that we are looking for is supposed to be written guarantee and witnessed by the international community ... to be written," he stressed. "Not to say verbally that we are going to grant peace. It is supposed to be written in the agreement. The agreement is supposed to include guarantees from the local, regional, and international parties."

Negotiators from the Sudan government and the two Darfur rebel groups face a Thursday deadline to reach a deal after African Union mediators gave the rebels a further two-day extension.

Mediators remain hopeful that a compromise could still be reached. A top African Union mediator told VOA, "there is no break-through yet, but the struggle continues," just before he disappeared into a room for another closed-door session.