Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Major rebel group agrees to endorse Darfur peace deal

AFP , ABUJA

The African Union said yesterday that the leader of the main rebel faction in Sudan's Darfur region had agreed to sign a peace deal to end the three-year-old civil war there.

But a smaller rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said it would not accept the UN-sponsored deal.

"Yes, Mr Minni Minnawi, of the [largest] Sudan Liberation Movement [SLM] faction, has accepted to sign the peace agreement although he expressed some reservations on power sharing," AU spokesman Nouredine Mezni said.

A spokesman for the SLM, which has split into two factions, confirmed the development.

"The last decision we took is that we accept the AU proposal with the new changes but we need to sit with the other SLM [faction] and the JEM and discuss with them," Self Eldin Haruon said.

"We need to [work] together or else there is going to be a problem. The areas in which we need changes effected are power sharing and security arrangement," Haruon added.

He thanked the international community for its efforts to salvage the talks, being mediated by the AU in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

"We cherish the international community and we do not want to lose their support. Our acceptance of the document is the first step to peace," he added.

Despite massive pressure from international mediators, both the SLM and the JEM rebel groups had initially refused to sign the deal, even at the risk of international sanctions.

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