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Sudan Threatens to Withdraw From Darfur Talks

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Khartoum, 20 Dec 2010

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir says his country will withdraw from Darfur peace talks in Qatar and organize its own, if no deal is reached immediately with the rebels.

Mr. Bashir told a crowd of supporters in Darfur Wednesday that Sudan's delegation will leave Doha and hold the talks in Darfur if there is no agreement.

He also threatened military retaliation against anyone who "takes up arms" in Darfur.

Authorities in Khartoum have been devoting most of their attention recently to the referendum on January 9 that could lead to southern Sudan becoming an independent state, but the main rebel groups in Darfur are still battling government forces. Clashes in recent weeks have driven more than 10,000 people from their homes.

The referendum is part of a peace agreement in 2005 that ended more than two decades of civil war between northern and southern Sudan.

Darfur has been plagued by conflict since rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the government of neglecting the western Sudanese region.

The United Nations says more than 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur violence, and 2.7 million others were displaced. Sudan's government puts the death toll much lower, at 10,000.