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Chad-Sudan Talks Face Delays

Planned Chad-Sudan peace talks have faced more delays on the sidelines of the Islamic conference being held in Senegal. Host Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade promised a new deal, but instead so far his efforts have been marked by no-shows and more accusations. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar.

Mr. Wade hosted Chadian President Idriss Deby late into the night Wednesday at the Presidency in Dakar.

The president of Gabon, Omar Bongo, was also there as was U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

But Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir never appeared.

Just before midnight, Mr. Wade told a waiting throng of journalists, Mr. Bashir had told him he was tired from his recent travels from Dubai, and had a headache, so he would prefer the meeting to take place Thursday. But a planned sideline peace summit Thursday was also pushed back.

In his inaugural speech, Mr. Wade made no mention of the Chad-Sudan matter.

Both countries have backed rebels in each other's country, in a region torn by population movements, army, rebel and militia activity, despite the presence of international peacekeepers. The fighting involves different ethnic groups, but most of the fighters are Muslims, which is why many officials at the Islamic conference thought it would be a good forum to help end the violence.

The leaders of Chad and Sudan have signed five previous agreements, but none has ever been implemented. Prior to his trip to Dakar, Mr. Bashir said he had held Mr. Deby's hand inside the holiest Muslim shrine the Kaaba, but even that had not led to peace.

In his opening remarks to the Islamic conference, the president of the Malaysian senate, Abdul Hamid Pawanteh, representing the previous host, said it was important for the group to become more active in resolving such problems.

"Malaysia wishes the OIC to play a greater role in improving the welfare of Muslims," he said. "We would like the OIC to contribute more effectively to international peace and security. We must make the OIC relevant to the 21st century, in an era of globalization and a borderless world."

Even as the peace talks failed to start in Dakar, officials in Chad said a column of Sudan-backed rebels had just entered Chad.

But Chadian rebels who nearly toppled Mr. Deby in February said they were already in Chad, and regrouping, but not advancing.

Officials from the former Chadian colonial power, France, said French troops inside Chad had not noticed new movements. French troops helped Mr. Deby in fighting off last month's rebel incursion.

A spokesman for a new European peacekeeping force trying to secure refugees on the Chadian side of the border also denied the presence of a rebel column.

But in Sudan's warring Darfur region, fighting has escalated in recent weeks. U.N. efforts to boost an existing, but cash and equipment-strapped African Union peacekeeping force have been slowed down, amid problems with Sudanese officials.