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Fresh Fighting Dampens Hope for Darfur Peace Accord

Fresh fighting has erupted between Sudanese government troops, allied militias and rebel factions in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. At the same time, rebels have attacked a Sudanese oil field. Sarah Simpson reports from VOA's East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, that the violence has dealt a serious blow to hopes of a peace agreement at talks due to open in Libya on Saturday.

Suleiman Jamous, a respected rebel within the Sudan Liberation Army, has told VOA that his group is fighting government troops in Darfur, even as a special peace summit is expected to open in Libya.

Reports of fresh fighting come as another key rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, said it had attacked a Sudanese oil facility and kidnapped two expatriate workers.

Oil industry officials have confirmed the attack, though details of the alleged kidnapping remain unconfirmed.

Many rebel factions, including the Justice and Equality Movement, have already said they will not be attending the peace talks on Saturday. But Jamous says despite deep reservations, he believes his group may yet take part.

"We know that the solution of the problem of the conflict in Darfur should come through political negotiation. But we have to prepare the theater and therefore the international community they should know who is to be addressed for the problem to be solved," he said.

Accusing Sudan's Arab-majority government in Khartoum of political and economic neglect, rebels in Darfur took up arms in 2003. More than 200,000 people have died in the conflict and millions more have been forced to flee their homes.

The long-awaited peace talks, set to take place in the Libyan port city of Sirte, were brokered by the United Nations and African Union.

UN and AU diplomats had billed the talks as a "moment of truth", but hopes of securing peace in Libya are fading fast in the face of the growing rebel boycott.

The rebels, mostly ethnic Africans, accuse Arab-dominated Khartoum of decades of discrimination and marginalization. They say Sudan has unleashed a militia of Arab nomads, known as the Janjaweed, who have murdered, raped and burned down their villages.

The United States has accused Khartoum of genocide.

Khartoum denies all charges and maintains the Western media has exaggerated the scale of the problem in Darfur.

In a related development, the U.S. warned the Sudanese government could face sanctions if it continues to drag its feet on the deployment a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force in Darfur.