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Main Darfur Rebels Sign Peace Accord with Sudan Government

The Sudan government and the largest of the three main rebel groups have agreed in principle to sign an African Union-negotiated peace deal to end the conflict in Darfur. Two remaining rebel factions are sticking to their demands.

Western mediators said Friday that Sudan's government and the largest Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, have agreed to sign a peace plan in Abuja, Nigeria, where the talks are taking place.

But two of the rebel factions have rejected the proposal.

Mediators described the acceptance by the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Minni Minnawi, as a major development. But they also say the approval of the two other factions is needed to make the deal workable.

A delegation of 14 prominent tribal leaders from Sudans Darfur region arrived in Abuja Friday to lend their support to the stalled peace talks. Mohammed Rigal, leader of the Fur tribe in Southern Darfur, told VOA that they were in Abuja to help the rebels resolve the stalemate.

"We came to help them [rebels] and to advise them and to talk to them [that] people in Darfur and the IDPs [Internally Displaced People] and the refugees [are] so eager to come back home and to begin their lives from beginning. And we are advising them to do peace now, not tomorrow, now," said Mr. Rigal.

Frequent infighting among rebel groups has impeded the talks as the groups often had had difficulty agreeing.

The proposed peace plan would call for a referendum in Darfur to decide whether to create a single administrative region, but only after fighting has stopped and national elections have been held.

The deal also calls for disarmament of militias linked to the government, the integration of thousands of rebel fighters into Sudan's armed forces, and a protection force for civilians.

Included in the political provisions, are guarantees that rebel factions will have the majority in Darfur's three state legislatures, but the rebels did not get the national vice presidency they had sought.