Friday, May 05, 2006

Darfur rebels 'agree peace deal'

Taken from the BBC News Website

The largest rebel group in Sudan's Darfur region has agreed to sign a peace deal with the government.

The breakthrough came when SLM leader Minni Minnawi returned to the talks, following a late-night session.

However, two smaller groups say they are not happy with the terms of the deal on offer. The government has also agreed to sign.

International negotiators say the deal is the best hope for peace in Darfur, where 2m people have fled their homes.

The BBC's Alex Last, who is at the talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, says a huge round of applause was heard shortly after Mr Minnawi returned to the talks.

"I accept the document with some reservations concerning the power sharing," Mr Minnawi said.

One of his officials told the Reuters news agency that the SLM wanted more seats in parliament but had agreed to the deal to end the suffering of the people in Darfur.

But the smallest rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), insists that it still wants fundamental changes to the document.

The group's chief negotiator, Ahmed Tugod, reiterated the rebels' demands for the post of vice-president in the Khartoum government and for Darfur to have a greater share of national wealth.

"We decided not to sign it unless changes are made," he said.

The larger Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) is divided into two factions.

The smaller faction, led by Abdelwahid Muhamed El Nur, refuses to sign.

"We need the document to be improved upon," he said.


Our correspondent says mediators are now hoping Mr Minnawi will be able to persuade the two other rebel groups to change their minds.

But our correspondent says that looks doubtful.

Mediators have said this will be the last attempt to secure a peace deal for the three-year-old Darfur conflict, which has claimed some 200,000 lives and displaced more than two million people.

The rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the government of discriminating against the black African residents of Darfur.

Pro-government Arab militia then launched a campaign, described as "genocide" by the US. The Sudan government denies backing the Janjaweed militias accused of the worst atrocities, such as mass killing, rape and looting.

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