A senior African Union official says peace talks between Sudan's government and Darfur rebel groups may be delayed until next year.

The talks had been planned for next month.

But AU envoy Salim Ahmed Salim says the date of the talks is not as important as simply getting the talks re-started.

The first round of talks in Libya fell through when key rebel factions boycotted an October meeting.

Salim says those rebels have to be ready for negotiations before talks with the government can resume.

Negotiators have been hoping to make major progress before a 26,000-member peacekeeping force deploys to Darfur around the start of 2008.

A 2005 peace agreement between the government and rebels in the south ended 21 years of civil war.

The agreement has appeared increasingly shaky, especially since former southern rebels withdrew their ministers from the national government in Khartoum in October.

The conflict in Darfur has killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced an additional 2.5 million since 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.