Sudan rebels say peace talks unlikely

Doha–The main rebel group in Sudan’s Darfur has said peace talks in Qatar with the Khartoum government were unlikely to resume as hoped Sunday but instead there may be "consultations" to choose another date.

"As far as the 24 January date is concerned, we cannot say that there will be negotiations. This depends on our discussions with the mediators," Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam said late Wednesday.

"There could be consultations on 24 January to choose another date for negotiations as there are many pending issues that we want to settle before going to direct talks," he told reporters in Qatar.

A JEM delegation had arrived in Doha for talks with Qatari and other mediators.

Djibril Bassole, the UN and African Union mediator, said earlier this month that talks to settle the festering conflict in Darfur region would resume in Doha before the end of the month, with 24 January set as a date for direct talks.

Bassole said he expected the exiled leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur, to join the talks.

The SLA is one of the main rebel groups in Darfur along with the JEM, and Nur has previously refused to take part in the Doha talks.

But Adam said the JEM rejected the participation of other rebel parties, claiming that such groups "do not exist on the ground."

"The (JEM) movement is the only one which is currently fighting and has a real presence in Darfur … Others who claim to be (rebel) movements should not be included only to satisfy them or their supporting foreign countries," he said in an apparent reference to the SLA.

The JEM in May agreed to resume talks with Khartoum which it broke off after the International Criminal Court in March issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Since then attempts to make progress have foundered despite efforts by US special envoy Scott Gration who managed to bring together representatives of rebel factions for talks to fine-tune a common stance.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had said following a meeting with Bassole that he was confident that SLA leader Nur will attend the Doha talks.

The conflict that erupted in 2003 initially pitted two separatist rebel groups against the Khartoum government aided by local Arab militias, but it has since proliferated.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million fled their homes since the ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003.

Sudan’s government says 10,000 people have been killed.

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