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Zoellick Going to Nigeria To Help Darfur Peace Talks

  • VOA News

A senior U.S. diplomat is on his way to the Darfur peace talks to try to help the parties involved reach a peace agreement.

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick departed Washington on Monday for Abuja, Nigeria. U.S. officials say only a few issues remain unresolved between the Sudanese government and rebels who have refused to sign an African Union-brokered peace deal.

Sudan's government said it would sign the A.U. peace agreement, but two Darfur rebel groups are demanding changes to the draft.

The rebels say they want stronger representation in Sudan's central government, and better terms for integrating their forces into the Sudanese army.

A State Department spokesman ,Sean McCormack says all parties should make a "concentrated effort" to reach an agreement.

The African Union extended the talks by 48 hours after the rebels and government failed to strike a deal by a Sunday deadline.

The United States had urged the A.U. to extend the deadline to try to finalize a deal after two years of talks.

Three years of violence involving rebels, government forces, and government-backed militias in Darfur has killed an estimated 180-thousand people, and forced more than two million others to flee their homes.

While in Abuja, Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick plans to meet with commanders of the African Union mission in Sudan to discuss the security situation in Darfur. The State Department says he also hopes to meet with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

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