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Diplomats Welcome Sudan Peace Agreement

Diplomats are hailing the landmark peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the main rebel faction in the Darfur region that ends three years of fighting.

Government representatives and the main faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army signed the deal in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, Friday. Among other things, the agreement calls for government-backed militias to disarm and for rebel fighters to be integrated into Sudan's armed forces.

Two smaller rebel factions, however, rejected the deal, despite last-minute efforts by mediators to win their support.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who helped reach the accord, called the deal an important step on the path to peace in the region. He warned that rebels who stay out of the peace process run the risk of being shunned as renegades and outlaws.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed hope that all rebel factions would embrace the peace deal within the next few days.

Conflict about land and water resources in Darfur erupted into fighting in 2003 when non-Arab rebels accused the Arab-dominated government of neglect. The fighting has involved the rebels, government forces and Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militias.

The United States has accused Sudan of a campaign of genocide against people living in the western Darfur region.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.