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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
09 January 2006

NIGERIA: Worsening security, lack of progress bog down Darfur talks

ABUJA, 9 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Talks to end the bloody conflict in Darfur have been suspended for a week to respect a Muslim holiday, mediators said on Monday, but there is little sign of progress as the security situation in the western Sudan region worsens and the two sides fail to agree on key aspects of sharing power.

African Union (AU) officials called off the peace negotiations in Abuja on Sunday to allow Muslim delegates from the Sudanese government and two Darfur rebel movements to celebrate the Eid el-Kabir festival. Discussions are set to resume on 15 January.

Mediators had hoped that this seventh round of talks between Khartoum, the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which began in November, would yield a breakthrough in the conflict which has been raging for three years.

But they admit that the only tangible result so far has been keeping the sides talking.

"We have been here for more than a month now but I can't even report any progress. It's been very slow," one of the senior AU officials, Sam Ibok, told reporters at the weekend.

Putting their bickering from the previous rounds of talks on one side, the rebel groups have jointly demanded that a new vice-president post be created that would go to someone from Darfur. The Sudanese government has flatly rejected the idea, saying its best offer would be the position of a special advisor to President Omar el-Bashir.

Another sticking point is a rebel plan that would enlarge the Darfur region so that it includes pieces of land excised by Khartoum and added to other regions in the past.

With the deadlock dragging on for weeks, AU mediator Ibok said these issues had been shelved for now.

The other two main areas of negotiation are wealth sharing and security arrangements, but some delegates have said that any progress in those areas would be meaningless without a power-sharing deal. And Ibok said that wide differences remained in subsequent discussions.

With the talks mired in disagreement, the security situation in Darfur continues to worsen. One of the AU's 6,000 peacekeepers was killed on Friday in the latest breach of the ceasefire and mediators say a crisis between Sudan and Chad risks escalating tensions and damaging the Darfur peace process.

The Darfur conflict erupted in early 2003 when JEM and SLA/M took up arms against Khartoum to end what they call the neglect and oppression of the mainly black inhabitants of Darfur, a semi-desert region the size of France. The Sudanese government responded by backing Arab militias known as the Janjawid.

Humanitarian workers estimate that more than 180,000 people have been killed and nearly two million forced to flee their homes because of the bloodshed. And last week the United Nations declared Darfur a high-risk zone and reduced the number of its personnel in the area.



This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006

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