- Title: NIGERIA: Darfur rebels face "decision time" in night talks.
- Date: 7th May 2006
- Summary: CLOSE OF AFRICAN UNION (AU) SOLDIER WORKING ON LAPTOP
- Embargoed: 22nd May 2006 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA2ZRE4L78VFW01LYFG7J02A5PD
- Story Text: African heads of state and Western diplomats pressed rebel factions from Sudan's Darfur region for decisions on a draft peace deal in the early hours of Friday (May 5) after a third deadline passed.
On the table was a document drawn up by African Union (AU) mediators after two years of talks on ending the conflict in Sudan's arid western Darfur region, amended in the past two days by a U.S.-led diplomatic team to try to win rebel acceptance.
The Sudanese government had said it would accept the original AU draft but the three rebel factions rejected it, citing objections in all three areas covered -- security, wealth sharing and power sharing.
The rebels took up arms in early 2003 in ethnically mixed Darfur, a region the size of France, over what they saw as neglect by the Arab-dominated central government.
Khartoum used militias known as the Janjaweed, drawn from Arab tribes, to crush the rebellion. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, while a campaign of arson, looting and rape has driven more than 2 million from their homes into refugee camps in Darfur and neighbouring Chad.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick arrived on Tuesday in the Nigerian capital Abuja, venue of the talks, and spent two days trying to wring concessions from both sides to break the deadlock.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso, the past and current chairmen of the AU, called the rebel factions to the villa to hear their reactions to the amended peace proposal.
The meetings were expected to last all night.
One sticking point was that rebels felt provisions for integration of their fighters into Sudan's armed forces were not strong enough.
The U.S.-led diplomatic push has focused on a trade-off of concessions on two leading security points: provisions for the rebels to join the Sudanese army would be improved, and in exchange language on disarming the Janjaweed would be amended in a way that suited the government better.
The rebels are split into two movements and three factions with complex internal politics and a history of infighting, making it hard to get agreement.
Peace talks have dragged on in Abuja while violence has escalated in Darfur to the point that aid workers cannot reach thousands of refugees.
The aid workers say a deal is vital before the rainy season begins in June when planting of food crops must be completed.
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