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Darfur peace talks will resume in Doha

Published Jan 11, 2010

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Ouagadougou - Talks to settle the festering conflict in Sudan's Darfur region will resume in Doha before the end of the month, international mediator Djibril Bassole said on Sunday.

"Doha will be the venue of the negotiations and the end of the Darfur crisis," Bassole told reporters after talks with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who visited Burkina Faso Sunday on the last leg of a tour of African countries.

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Bassole said he expected the exiled leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur, to join the talks.

The SLA is one of the main rebel groups in Darfur along with the JEM, and Nur has previously refused to take part in the Doha talks.

"Around the negotiating table, at the Doha negotiations, we can make the warring parties commit to a true truce and agree on the modalities of an end to the war," said Bassole, who is the United Nations' and African Union's chief mediator in the conflict.

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The talks will open in Doha on January 18. Rebel members and members of civil society will meet the following day before a formal opening of the negotiations on January 24.

"Things are difficult but are heading in the right direction," said Bassole.

He said he discussed Nur's case with the French foreign minister as the SLA leader was living in exile in Paris.

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"He is not on his way to Doha but he won't rule out" going there, said Bassole. "We will do everything we can, so Abdel Wahid, who is a powerful symbol of liberation, can play a useful role."

Kouchner added he was confident that the SLA leader would eventually join the peace process.

The conflict that erupted in 2003 initially pitted two separatist rebel groups against the Khartoum government aided by local Arab militias, but it has since proliferated.

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The United Nations says up to 300 000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease, and that another 2.7 million have fled their homes.

The government puts the Darfur death toll at 10 000 people. - AFP

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