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Biggest Darfur rebel faction to sign peace deal

Written by: Staff

ABUJA, May 5: The leader of the largest faction of Darfur rebels agreed today to sign a peace deal with the Sudanese government despite reservations, African Union mediators said.

''It's done. Minni is going to sign. He has accepted with some reservations ... but he is going to sign,'' Noureddine Mezni, a spokesman for the AU, said of Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) leader Minni Arcua Minnawi.

In a transcript of today morning's talks provided to Reuters by the AU, Minnawi is quoted as saying: ''I accept the document with some reservations concerning the power sharing.'' Three Darfur rebel factions have been meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja with AU and international mediators to try to reach a peace agreement after two years of stop-start negotiations to end three years of bitter conflict in Sudan.

The main rebel group, the SLA, is split into two factions but observers say Minnawi has more support among SLA fighters than his counterpart Abdel Wahed Mohammed al-Nur.

Nur's SLA faction and the third rebel faction, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), have rejected the peace settlement drafted by AU and Western diplomats.

The Sudanese government had already accepted a peace agreement drafted by the AU but since then, US-led diplomats have amended that draft to try to win support from the rebels.

AU officials said the government delegation would now come to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's compound in Abuja to meet with African heads of state, AU mediators and US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

Mediators hope to win government support for the amended draft.

There was no immediate word on whether JEM and the other SLA faction would be brought back into the discussions.


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