Darfur talks must switch tactics or fail -- group

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KHARTOUM, Nov 26 (Reuters) Peace talks in Sudan's Darfur region will fail unless negotiators find new ways to bring in Arab tribes and other sides caught up in the increasingly complex conflict, an international think-tank warned today.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) urged the United Nations and the African Union to change their negotiating tactics to bring more Arab groups, women's organisations and politicised refugees to the negotiating table, alongside the Sudanese government and warring rebel factions.

In a 40-page report, the think-tank said the United Nations and the African Union needed to do much more than reconcile Darfur's rebels with the government forces they have been fighting for the past 4-1/2 years.

They now also had to confront the ''high risk'' of new Arab uprisings in the region, together with increasingly violent clashes among Darfur's huge displaced populations and tribal disputes over land.

''The strategy the AU/UN mediation has been following cannot cope with this new reality and needs to be revised,'' said the report. The talks needed to be ''more inclusive and address the conflict's root causes,'' it added.

Since the beginning of the conflict, the fighting ''has mutated, the parties have splintered, and the confrontations have multiplied''.

There were already signs that the conflict was spreading to the neighbouring region of Kordofan, and could spread further.

''Failure to respond appropriately would leave the international community an unwitting accomplice to the beginnings of Sudan's next war,'' said the ICG's Africa Research Director Daniela Kroslak.

The report said there was an increasing number of clashes between Arab groups over land. Many Arab groups felt they had been used by Khartoum. ''Without a settlement, there will be increasing opportunities for disillusioned Arabs to join with rebel groups,'' said the ICG.

MILITARY STRATEGY Sudan's dominant National Congress Party was continuing to destabilise the region by flooding it with weapons, arming militias and setting one side against another, said the report.

''As part of its military strategy, the NCP has become the primary arms dealer in Darfur.'' A Darfur Peace Agreement signed in 2006 between Khartoum and just one Darfur rebel group -- the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Arcua Minnawi -- had failed totally, said the ICG. ''Though Minni Minnawi signed the DPA, his group has carried out many of the attacks, killings, carjacking and thefts in Darfur over the last eighteen months,'' it added.

Fresh peace talks brokered by the United Nations and the African Union between Sudan's government and Darfur rebel groups in the Libyan city of Sirte stalled in late October. Most major insurgent groups boycotted the negotiations, saying they needed more time to hammer out their negotiating positions.

The ICG's Horn of Africa Project Director David Mozersky said the African Union and the United Nations now needed to use the pause in the proceedings to go back to Darfur and persuade more groups to attend the next round.

The African Union and the United Nations had invited some representatives from refugee camps, women's organisations and Arab groups to Sirte. But the groups needed more time to prepare themselves and the freedom to choose their own representatives.

They also needed to make sure that key issues like land ownership and grazing rights were central to the negotiations.

''Unless those things are in place, the peace process won't work,'' Mozersky told Reuters.

Reuters AK VP0430

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