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Sudan government, rebel faction sign Darfur peace deal

Written by: Staff

ABUJA, May 5 (Reuters) The government of Sudan and the main Darfur rebel faction signed an agreement today to end three years of fighting in Sudan's vast west.

Majzoub al-Khalifa, head of the government's negotiating team, and rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction leader Minni Arcua Minnawi signed the agreement in the Nigerian capital Abuja after days of intense negotiations and international pressure.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo praised the SLA chief for being not only a military commander but a political leader.

''Leadership comes to the fore when hard decisions are to be made,'' he said to applause from gathered diplomats.

''Unless the right spirit is there, the right attitude, this document will not be worth the paper it's written on. The spirit that led to the signing should continue to guide the implementation,'' Obasanjo added.

Both the government and the SLA faction said they were signing the document despite reservations over power sharing and security in order to end the suffering in Darfur.

Aid organisations say the conflict has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

But it was unclear whether the agreement, signed after two years of African Union-mediated talks, will translate into peace on the ground in Darfur.

A rival faction of the SLA and the smaller Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have rejected the deal.

Obasanjo said the international community would continue to appeal to those who had refused to sign to come on board.

Reuters SI RS2303

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