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Ugandan Rebel Commander Says Commited to Peace Despite Refusal to Attend Talks


The deputy leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebel group has turned down a request to attend peace talks in southern Sudan.

Vincent Otti told reporters by phone Thursday that he fears being arrested if he appears at the talks in person. The International Criminal Court has charged Otti and four other Ugandan rebel leaders with war crimes.

Otti said the LRA remains committed to negotiating peace with the Ugandan government and ending its 20-year insurgency.

The Ugandan government and southern Sudanese mediators have been urging the rebels to send a senior leader to the talks in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan's regional government.

Rebel chief Joseph Kony has also refused to attend the talks.

Meanwhile, LRA leaders are complaining that the chief mediator, southern Sudanese vice-president Riek Machar, left a rebel delegation stranded at a remote outpost near the Sudan-Congo border Wednesday.

The rebels say Machar got upset after Otti failed to appear for an expected meeting.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has offered amnesty to the rebels if they disarm. Human Rights Watch has criticized the amnesty offer, saying rebels should not be exempt from the alleged crimes.

Kony and his aides have been hiding at bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Peace talks are due to resume Monday.