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Bashir: Darfur War Is Over

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir says the seven-year conflict in his country's Darfur region is over.

Speaking in the North Darfur capital of El Fasher Wednesday, Mr. Bashir said the war and the crisis in Darfur are "finished," and that a war for development has begun.

Mr. Bashir's remarks came a day after his government signed a cease-fire with Darfur's most powerful rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The agreement calls for the sides to reach a final peace deal by March 15.

Smaller rebel groups have rejected the accord.

Also Wednesday, Sudanese authorities released 57 JEM fighters who had been imprisoned in connection with the group's attack on Sudan's capital, Khartoum, in 2008.

Mr. Bashir's government had agreed to cancel death sentences against the rebels as part of the cease-fire.

Officials say the freed rebels represent half of the JEM members jailed for the attack.

Darfur rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in 2003.

The United Nations says the conflict has killed some 300,000 people and displaced about 2.7 million. Sudan puts the death toll much lower, at 10,000.

President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes against Darfur's population.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.