Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Darfur rebels agree on platform for talks with Sudan

AGENCIES , ARUSHA, TANZANIA AND KHARTOUM

Darfur rebel factions meeting in Tanzania have reached a common negotiating position and want "final" talks on peace with Sudan's government within months, UN and African Union (AU) mediators said yesterday.

"They ... recommended that final talks should be held between two to three months from now," UN special envoy to Darfur Jan Eliasson said.

Representative of eight factions were wrapping up a weekend of talks in a Tanzanian resort in Arusha near Mount Kilimanjaro yesterday. The talks were attended by an unprecedented number of political leaders and field commanders.

Speaking on behalf of the UN and AU, Eliasson said that the Darfur groups had reached "a common platform" for such talks, and remained open to rebel leaders who had not attended the negotiations.

The absence of some influential rebel leaders, however, had raised doubts over the chances of the talks succeeding. Khartoum accused Paris of failing to encourage one prominent leader -- Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur -- to attend.

The large Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)-Unity faction also declined to participate in the talks in protest at the fact that its humanitarian coordinator, Suleiman Jamous, is virtually imprisoned in a UN hospital near Darfur.

Meanwhile, US actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow sent a letter to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Sunday offering to exchange herself for Jamous, who needs a stomach biopsy that the UN facility cannot perform.

Khartoum has said if he leaves the UN hospital would be arrested, but has said it is open to talks on his release.

"Before his seizure, Mr Jamous played a crucial role in bringing the SLA to the negotiating table and in seeking reconciliation between its divided rival factions," Farrow wrote. "I am therefore offering to take Mr. Jamous's place ... in the knowledge of his importance to the civilians of Darfur and in the conviction that he will apply his energies toward creating the just and lasting peace that the Sudanese people deserve."

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