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Libya Chosen as Site of Darfur Peace Negotiations

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says new peace negotiations aimed at bringing an end to the four-year-old conflict in Darfur will start October 27 in Libya. Ban made this announcement at the end of talks with Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum. Lisa Schlein has more from the Sudanese capital.

Emerging from his meeting with Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir, U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon told journalists the talks were very useful and that he and the president have taken a big step toward their shared goal of bringing peace to Darfur.

"We are pushing very hard to bring the various parties to the Darfur conflict to the negotiating table," he said. "We need a peace to keep. That means an immediate cease fire and an end to violence."

In a joint communiqué issued after the meeting, the government of Sudan pledged to do its best to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended more than 20 years of civil war between the North and the South. It pledged an end to hostilities in Darfur if circumstances permit and agreed upon a ceasefire.

It also pledged to work toward a peace agreement and to facilitate the timely deployment of the 26,000-strong hybrid African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force to Darfur.

For its part, the United Nations pledged to support these efforts. It welcomed the renewed peace talks for Darfur and promised to deploy the hybrid operation in a timely fashion.

Secretary-General Ban said the situation surrounding the Darfur crisis has changed and the time is now ripe to launch new peace talks. He said everyone involved in the conflict must seize this opportunity.

He said the Libyan government, which has been playing a very constructive role in facilitating the peace process, had been chosen over five other countries to host the negotiations.

"Tripoli could provide a good venue and could work as a good place to facilitate these peace negotiations," he said. "At this time I would again urge that all those concerned, the Sudanese government and major players in the region, particularly representatives of all movements should participate."

Eight key rebel groups have agreed to participate in the talks. However, the popular leader of the Sudan Liberation Army, Abdul Wahid, told the BBC that he would not attend. He said there was no point in talks until the fighting stops. Wahid did not sign on to the Abuja accord because he disagreed with a number of the provisions.

Ban said Wahid has great influence in the peace process and hopes he will come on board. The Sudanese Foreign Minister, Lam Akol Ajawin, also said he hoped he would turn up.

"My advice to Abdul Wahid is that great leaders in history are the ones who take the right decision at the right time," he said.

Ajawin said violence in Darfur results from the lack of security. He said insecurity can be stemmed either through the peace talks or the peacekeeping operation. He reiterated Sudan's support for the hybrid force and said the government would accept heavy equipment from wherever it comes.