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Juba, Sudan - Ugandan rebels accused the Kampala government on Saturday of violating a truce by "besieging" their fighters, and threatened to pull out of peace talks unless the Ugandan army withdraws from southern Sudan.
Delegates representing the notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in talks in the southern Sudanese capital Juba said army forces had surrounded an LRA assembly point on the Sudan-Uganda border agreed under the terms of the truce.
"The LRA delegation cannot continue to negotiate while its troops risk imminent attack," Krispus Ayena Odongo, a senior member of the delegation, told reporters.
"As a precondition to resume peace negotiations, LRA demands an immediate withdrawal of (Ugandan army) troops that have besieged our troops," he said.
The accusations were dismissed by army spokesperson Felix Kulayigye, who said it was a pretext for the LRA to quit negotiations mediated by neighbouring southern Sudan.
"We have not made any deployments in southern Sudan or around Owiny-Ki-Bul. The LRA is simply looking for excuses to bolt out of the peace talks," he told Reuters.
Kulayigye said the army had information fugitive LRA leader Joseph Kony had asked one of his commanders in the camp to send him 50 fighters.
"Why would Joseph Kony be asking for 50 fighters if he's ready to come out of the bush?" Kulayigye added.
The peace process had been widely regarded as the best chance to end a two-decade insurgency that has killed tens of thousands and uprooted 2 million others.
But tensions between the government and LRA have grown since a deadline passed for LRA guerrillas to assemble at two locations, under the landmark truce signed last month, without the surrender of Kony or his deputy Vincent Otti.
Both men are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for killing civilians, mutilating victims and abducting children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves.
Otti has repeatedly said the LRA would not leave its hideouts unless the ICC scrapped its arrest warrants N a move rejected by President Yoweri Museveni, who insists the rebels should first surrender.
- Additional reporting by Francis Kwera in Kampala