Troubled start to Darfur talks

Sudanese peace talks have got off to a troubled start after Khartoum rejected a plan for African troops to disarm rebels in the war-torn Darfur region.

    Sudan's Al-Khalifa rejected the Nigerian disarmament plan

    Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, African Union (AU) chairman and host of the talks in Abuja, suggested AU troops were needed because Sudan's forces were incapable of disarming the rebels without further bloodshed. 
        
    AU troops could do this, he said, while Khartoum could disarm the Janjawid militias – nomadic tribesmen widely accused of driving hundreds of thousands of people off their land.
       
    "I don't think there is a need for this," said Majdhub al-Khalifa, Sudan's agriculture minister and top negotiator at the talks.

    "Simultaneously we will disarm the rebel movements, the Janjawid and other militia."

    That plan was swiftly dismissed by a top rebel official.
       
    "There is no way we can let our enemies disarm us. They are still killing us and bombing us," said Abu Bakr Hamid Nur, coordinator of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement.
       
    Talks continue

    Darfur rebels reject the idea of
    being disarmed by Khartoum

    Delegates said Monday's formal talks between the government and rebels began with each side presenting its case, after which they set an agenda comprising political, security, humanitarian and development issues to be addressed.
       
    They are to reconvene at 1100 GMT on Tuesday.
       
    Darfur rebels began an armed revolt against the government in February 2003 after years of conflict between nomadic and sedentary tribes over scarce resources in the arid region.
       
    They are demanding a greater role for ethnic minorities of the Darfur region in government, which they say is dominated by the country's northern provinces.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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