Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Sudan announces new cease-fire

AP , LAGOS, NIGERIA

A Sudanese woman sits on a bed inside her tent in the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of the southern Darfur town of Nyala on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

Sudan said it ordered the military to stop fighting in the bloodied Darfur region even as rebels alleged new attacks and said they would uphold a boycott of stalemated peace talks.

"Orders were given last night to all the commanders to stop fighting," Sudan government delegation spokesman Ibrahim Mohammed Ibrahim said on Thursday by phone from the African Union-hosted conference in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

Ibrahim said he wasn't sure if fighting had actually stopped in Darfur, where tens of thousands of people have died and nearly 2 million left homeless in a two-year crisis the UN has branded the world's gravest.

Rebels boycotted the latest round of talks on Monday over allegations of a new offensive against them, saying they would not talk with government mediators until the attacks stopped.

The insurgents said attacks continued on Thursday, citing field reports from the vast western Darfur region.

Bahar Ibrahim, spokesman for the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army, said government troops attacked the town of Tawila and several villages in northern Darfur.

"The government as of this morning is continuing its attacks," he said.

"Nothing has changed in the situation to make us return to the talks," said Ahmed Tugod Lissan of Sudan's other main rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement.

On Wednesday, the top government negotiator, Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmad, said Sudan had accepted a proposal by African Union medi-ators to stop fighting if rebels withdrew from positions captured since the signing of an April cease-fire deal.

Delegates from the two rebel movements said they had received no formal notification of any such AU proposal and couldn't comment on it.

There is no official reckoning of the overall toll of the war, which was sparked in February last year when two non-Arab African rebel groups took up arms to fight for more power and resources from the Arab-dominated Khartoum government.

The Sudanese government responded by backing an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed, which is accused of targeting civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson.

Disease and hunger have killed 70,000 people in the western Darfur region since March, the World Health Organization says. Nearly 2 million are believed to have fled their homes since Darfur fell into crisis.

The US has accused Sudan's government of failing to take sufficient steps to rein in the Janjaweed, who are alleged to have committed genocide in Darfur.

A promised 3,000-member AU peace deployment for Darfur has so far managed to put some 800 soldiers and 100 observers in the field.

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