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Warring Nigerians Sign Cease-Fire

June 25, 1999

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Warring tribes in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta have reached a cease-fire to end ethnic strife that has cost hundreds of lives over the past two years, newspapers reported Friday.

Representatives of the Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo ethnic groups agreed to keep an open line of communication and pursue lasting peace through dialogue, The Guardian newspaper of Lagos reported.

Delegations from the three groups signed the six-point declaration on Thursday in the Delta State capital of Asaba.

The declaration called for President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government to resolve the issues that triggered the fighting _ ethnic disputes over development projects and oil revenues.

The rival delegations urged the government to ``spare no effort″ in granting aid to victims of violence and support future peace talks.

Some 200 people were reportedly killed earlier this month in street clashes between Ijaw, Urhobo and Itsekiri ethnic militants in the southern oil city of Warri. Dozens of homes were razed and thousands fled the fighting.

Another several hundred people were believed killed in fighting between October and January in towns and villages surrounding Warri.

The region is the source of most of the oil in Nigeria, the world’s sixth largest exporter. Multinational firms like Chevron Corp. that pump the bulk of the oil have experienced frequent disruptions by militants who kidnap workers, capture oil facilities and sabotage pipelines.

The destitute Delta region has been the scene of frequent bloody clashes and is seen as a major challenge to Obasanjo, who took office late last month in a handover that ended 15 years of military rule.

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