Darfur rebel leader scoffs at Sudan ceasefire call

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ASMARA, Sep 15 (Reuters) The leader of an umbrella Darfur rebel group today scoffed at Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's comments that Khartoum was willing to observe a ceasefire in Sudan's troubled western region.

Khamis Abdallah, head of the United Front for Liberation and Development (UFLD) -- founded in Eritrea in July, also said he was sceptical that Sudan's ruling party would abide by any possible deal reached at peace talks in Libya in October.

''We know Bashir. When he talks about a ceasefire, he's not credible. We are seeing an escalation of military operations, which means he's saying this for political reasons,'' Khamis told Reuters in an interview.

''(Sudan's ruling party) is not implementing the CPA, so how can they implement any other deals?'' he said, referring to a 2005 agreement between Khartoum and southern rebels that ended a decades-old conflict killing some 2 million people.

Khamis said the group had not yet received an invitation for peace talks scheduled for Libya next month, and would discuss whether to go with the other four insurgent groups that form the UFLD.

Darfur insurgents fractured into more than a dozen armed groups after an unpopular peace deal last year with Khartoum that only one faction signed.

On a visit to Italy this week, Bashir said Khartoum was willing to comply with a ceasefire from the start of peace talks with rebels in Libya.

But another ceasefire -- agreed upon in April 2004 -- has been violated frequently, with fighting blamed on government troops, rebels and Janjaweed militias.

A four-year conflict has raged in the western Sudan region which foreign experts estimate has killed 200,000 people and driven another 2.5 million from their homes.

Khartoum disputes the figures.

Many Darfur rebels have been based in Eritrea whose government was accused by the United Nations of arming insurgents in the western region of Sudan.

Eritrea denies this, saying it is making efforts to bring the fractious Darfur rebels together.

REUTERS GT PM2000

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