Resumption of Darfur Peace Talks Urged

ROME, SEPT. 23, 2004 ( The Community of Sant’Egidio expressed regret over the suspension of peace talks in the Darfur region of Sudan, and urged the international community to intervene in the humanitarian crisis.

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The talks were suspended for a month, according to an announcement Sept. 14. The talks, which were being held in Abuja, Nigeria, under the supervision of the African Union, began Aug. 23 and included representatives of the rebel forces in Darfur and the Sudanese government.

The fighting, which began in February 2003, pits popular self-defense rebel groups against the Khartoum government. The conflict has left up to 50,000 dead and 2 million displaced.

The government is accused of abandoning the country’s western region of Darfur, because the population is primarily black, and of funding the «Janjaweed» Arab militiamen, who for years have sown death and destruction among the non-Arab populations.

The Rome-based Sant’Egidio lay group said that, «having participated as an observer both in Addis Ababa and Abuja,» it hopes the «suspension will not hinder the continuation of the talks.»

The Sant’Egidio Community «expresses its support for the initiative of the African Union and its availability for any further intervention that may facilitate the resumption of the meetings.»

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