Darfur UN AU envoys meet with second rebel group

18 January 2008United Nations and African Union (AU) envoys seeking to end the conflict in Sudan�s Darfur region have met with a second rebel movement in an effort to pave the way for peace negotiations. UN Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim met yesterday with the Commanders of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), Abdul Wahid faction, in North Darfur to discuss a planned meeting which aims to help the rebel movements consolidate their positions for negotiations with the Government.The envoys were accompanied by General Martin Luther Agwai, Force Commander of the new UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), part of the stepped-up efforts to end a conflict between the Government, allied paramilitaries and rebels that has killed over 200,000 people and driven some 2.5 million others from their homes since 2003.The two envoys, who on Wednesday held a four-hour meeting in an undisclosed location in north-west Darfur, with the United Resistance Front (URF), a grouping of several splintering movements, stressed that for the negotiations to be successful there should not be pre-conditions for participations, as these would be counter productive.Speaking on behalf of the SLA, a spokesman confirmed the movement�s readiness to participate in the political process and urged the Special Envoys to meet with SLA leader Abdul Wahid.He said the SLA welcomed the presence of Gen. Agwai and expressed its willingness to cooperate with UNAMID. Gen. Agwai promised to meet with them again next week to discuss plans for deploying troops and other issues pertaining to UNAMID.Today Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim visited Juba for talks with the authorities in South Sudan, where a peace agreement ended a two-decades-long civil war in 2005, before returning tomorrow to Khartoum, the capital, where they have already met with Government officials.

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