Brokers invite countries to mediate Uganda peace

 
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JUBA, March 5 (Reuters) Peace brokers trying to lure Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels and government representatives back to talks aimed at ending 20 years of war have called for other countries besides Sudan to help mediate.

The LRA quit talks in the south Sudanese capital Juba in January, saying they feared for their security after Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir threatened to ''get rid of the LRA from Sudan'' using military force.

Traditional leaders from northern Uganda met over the weekend with chief mediator, south Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar, and the UN envoy for the war, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, in a bid to re-start talks.

Among their resolutions was that ''the Government of southern Sudan remains the chief mediator and, in consultation with the parties, should invite countries with experience to guide the team,'' said a participant who declined to be named.

He did not say which countries could contribute mediators but he said all delegates had agreed that Juba should remain the venue for talks, despite the LRA's refusal to return there.

The LRA was not immediately available for comment.

Machar told delegates: ''The government of southern Sudan was shaken as to whether it was worth it to continue (mediating Uganda's peace talks), but yes, we will continue.'' He said he talked to LRA leader Joseph Kony on the phone to discuss ways forward.

Kony had requested that ceasefire monitors from eight different countries in the African Union be appointed to restore LRA confidence in the mediators' neutrality, he said.

LRA fighters have been camped out in south Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo while talks continue.

Their leadership has threatened to re-invade Uganda if another venue outside Sudan is not found, raising fears of a fresh humanitarian disaster in the north.

The two-decade conflict has killed thousands of people and uprooted 1.7 million.

But despite the expiration of a landmark truce signed in August, both sides have pledged not to fight again.

Machar said he would ask five countries to contribute mediators to the process, though he did not say which.

REUTERS PDM ND1600

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