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Warring Parties in Darfur to Resume Talks

February 17, 2005

N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) _ Sudan and rebels in its Darfur region will resume peace talks, government officials in the Sudanese capital confirmed Thursday. But they gave no date for the renewed negotiations to end a two-year conflict U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called a ``hell on Earth.″

Chad President Idriss Deby, whose country mediates the peace talks along with the African Union, pressed Sudan’s government and two rebels groups to end the war, saying the time for endless peace talks was running out.

The Sudanese government and the rebel groups _ Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement _ committed themselves to resuming peace talks when their representatives attended the African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on Jan. 31.

The government officials in Khartoum, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Thursday that peace talks would restart.

The United Nations has called Darfur the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, saying the conflict has claimed 70,000 lives since March _ mostly from disease and hunger _ while 2 million people have been displaced.

Darfur has been torn by conflict since early 2003, when rebels of ethnic African tribes took up arms, complaining of discrimination by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. A pro-government Arab militia launched a counterinsurgency.

Three rounds of peace talks since 2003 have failed to produce a lasting cease-fire.

``The last two years have been little short of hell on Earth for our fellow human beings in Darfur. And despite the attention the council has paid to this crisis, that hell continues today,″ Annan said Wednesday.

There are 1,400 military observers and troops from African nations to monitor the cease-fire in the region the size of France. Unknown assailants shooting at the observers’ helicopters and vehicles in the last few months have prevented them from investigating reports of cease-fire violations.

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