UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
NIGERIA: Parties to Darfur talks to thrash out key issues in Abuja
ABUJA, 15 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Representatives of the Sudanese government and two rebel groups involved in the two-year Darfur conflict are due in the Nigerian capital Abuja for a sixth round of peace talks, African Union (AU) officials said on Thursday.
But prospects for peace appear threatened by continuing insecurity in Darfur and splits in the rebel ranks.
"Some delegates are already here and others are being expected," said an AU official and member of the mediation team. "This time the negotiations will focus on the substantive issues of power sharing, wealth sharing and lasting security," he added.
In an effort to ensure progress during the talks due to kick off on Friday, delegates will take part in a few days of "workshops" to help build consensus among the rival groups, the official said.
The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), the bigger of the two main rebel groups in Darfur, accused Khartoum on Tuesday of attacking its positions despite a ceasefire, and warned the talks were in jeopardy.
The government denied mounting any attacks.
Progress at the last round of talks that ended in July with the signing of a declaration of broad principles for peace, had been slowed by the emergence of splinters within the ranks of the two rebel groups.
In the SLA the membership is split between supporters of president Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur and secretary general, Minni Minnawi.
In the smaller Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) some field commanders had rejected the leadership of Khalil Ibrahim.
While JEM appears to have overcome its troubles and announced they were sending a unified delegation to Abuja, the SLA is less certain.
Only Nur's faction has indicated readiness to attend so far, with no sign of whether Minnawi's supporters will show up.
The Darfur conflict pits Sudanese government troops and Arab militias against rebels fighting to end what they call the neglect and oppression of the inhabitants of Darfur, a semi-desert region the size of France.
Most of the Darfur residents are black Africans who say the Arab-dominated Khartoum government wants to chase them out of the country.
The US government has accused Khartoum of genocide.
The United Nations has described the situation in Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It estimates that 180,000 lives have been lost and that a further two million have been people forced to flee their homes.
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