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Darfur Talks Remain at Standstill Despite African Efforts


African leaders are preparing to discuss Darfur's expanding conflict at two summits this month. The summits come as talks between the warring parties in Abuja, Nigeria, show no signs of imminent success.

African Union mediators were hoping a deal to end Darfur's conflict could be struck in 2005, but the year finished without any visible progress.

Discussions on the conflict are taking place at a hotel on the outskirts of Abuja, in Nigeria, but deputy chief mediator Sam Ibok says that while there has been headway on some issues, others have been frozen.

"In the wealth sharing, the issue of resource allocation, revenue allocation, resources and all of that we've had some significant progress which has been made," said Sam Ibok. "[But] power-sharing we have had some difficulties, some of the commissions; some have not made any progress at all. In one of them, at least, we have been stalled for quite some time."

On power-sharing, some rebels have asked that one of them be given the vice-presidency in the central government. Some also want the borders of Darfur's province returned to what they were at Sudan's independence from Britain in 1956.

Mr. Ibok says the most difficult issue is security.

"Security arrangements will be the most problematic, which will make or break these negotiations," he said. "But that's because also the situation in Darfur is very unstable and there is a lot of insecurity."

Rebels, who say they are fighting against the marginalization of black Darfurians, want the militias disarmed first, while the government wants both sides to disarm at the same time. While the two sides talk, attacks are escalating.

The Sudan government spokesman at the Abuja talks, Amin Omar, says the rebels refuse to negotiate.

"They are not compromising their positions," said Amin Omar. "You are not here just to cling to your position, you are here to compromise, they are just working in the same place."

A top negotiator for one of the rebel factions, Moussa Abakar, says the rebels actually have too many different positions.

"We have to come out with something," said Moussa Abakar. "I mean, I am not really sure what may be acceptable to us, and what the government can really offer, but unfortunately the problem is that there are so many political parties within the movement who have their own agenda, and I think that is the cause of the delay in the talks."

The next African Union summit is due at the end of the month in Khartoum, but neighboring Chad, which now accuses Sudan of backing anti-Chadian rebels, has asked it to be moved elsewhere. Wherever the summit takes place, the expanding Darfur crisis will top the agenda.

A mini-summit will be held in Tripoli this month to discuss the nearly three-year Darfur war. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, and millions displaced, causing instability throughout the region.