Friday, May 05, 2006

Peace Deal for Darfur

Sudan, Rebel Group to Sign Peace Plan

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Sudan's government and the largest Darfur rebel group agreed Friday to sign a peace plan, a top U.S. envoy said, marking major progress in an internationally backed effort to end the death and destruction in western Sudan.

Two smaller rebel groups were still resisting, but U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said acceptance by faction leader Minni Minnawi was key.

"Today the largest group, Minni Minnawi's, has agreed to sign and the government of Sudan have agreed to sign as well," Zoellick told The Associated Press. "Not all the movements are in accord, but we're already getting phone calls that people with (rebel faction leader) Abdel Wahid (Nur) believe he has made a mistake."

The Nur faction walked out of negotiations in the Nigerian capital before dawn Friday, as had another rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement. But with the government and the Minnawi faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement on board, Zoellick was looking ahead to what he said was the next step: organizing a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur.

The Sudanese government initially rejected calls for U.N. peacekeepers to replace the thousands of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur now, but had indicated it would yield if a peace treaty was signed. Zoellick said there was strong backing for a U.N. force among the mediators in Nigeria.


Looks like there's hope.


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