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Sudan delegation to leave Darfur peace talks

By the CNN Wire Staff
U.N. forces keep guard as the Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs arrives in Darfur in November.
U.N. forces keep guard as the Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs arrives in Darfur in November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Sudanese government is leaving peace talks with rebels from Darfur
  • The president has been indicted for war crimes there
  • Roughly 300,000 have been killed in Darfur since 2003
RELATED TOPICS
  • Darfur
  • South Darfur
  • West Darfur
  • Darfur Conflict
  • Sudan

Khartoum, Sudan (CNN) -- A Sudanese government delegation plans to leave peace talks with rebels from the country's western Darfur region Friday, the country's official news agency reported.

The presidential advisor in charge of the talks for the government, however, said the departure does not mean the government is withdrawing from the talks, which have been taking place in Doha, Qatar.

"This does not mean that we are not willing to look over the final draft of the peace deal produced by these negotiators over the coming hours or days," the Sudan News Agency quoted the advisor, Ghazi Salaheldin, as saying. "That can happen without the presence of the government delegation in Doha."

If a draft document emerges from the talks, "it will be the foundation for a conference in Darfur. We do not want peace to be blocked," Salaheldin said, according to the Sudan News Agency.

The Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, said this week that his negotiators would leave if an agreement was not reached by Thursday.

Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in the western Darfur region, said he would not deal with rebels bearing arms after the talks ended in Doha.

"These (rebel) movements are enjoying the negotiation process and their residency in foreign hotels while the people of Darfur are suffering the flames of war," al-Bashir said. "We will not negotiate with anyone who carries a gun and claims to lead an armed group that represents the will of the people."

The anti-government Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel movement in Darfur, called al-Bashir's statement a declaration of war.

"What the president said yesterday has blocked the way ahead on the road to a political solution," said a statement from Ahmed Hussein Adam, a spokesman for the group. "It is a declaration of war and a limiting of any future chance for peace."

Fighting erupted in Darfur in 2003 between rebel groups and al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. More than 300,000 people have been killed in this desolate region, where hopes for peace have gone up and down over the last few months.

Negotiators had previously set a December 31 deadline for agreement in the peace talks, which have so far not made much progress.

The deadline was ahead of a key referendum on independence for Southern Sudan that begins January 9. North and South, dominated by non-Arab Christians and animists, have fought one of Africa's longest-running civil wars.

The Darfur conflict is separate from the North-South divide, but independence for the South could help embolden rebels in Darfur.