REFILE-Darfur rebels suspend peace talks, blaming clashes

03 May 2010 09:08:44 GMT

Source: Reuters

(Refiles to correct day of week in first paragraph)
* JEM accuses Sudan army of attacks in Darfur border area
* Rebel group considering “further measures”
KHARTOUM, May 3 (Reuters) – Darfur’s most powerful rebel group said on Monday it was suspending peace talks with Sudan’s government, accusing Khartoum of attacking villages and military positions in breach of a ceasefire. The announcement from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was largely symbolic as formal talks have been stalled for months, but it underlined the distance between the two sides seven years after the conflict in the Darfur region began.
“Because of the ongoing comprehensive offensive against the civilian population in Darfur and because of the aggression against our forces on the ground, JEM has decided to freeze its participation in the Doha peace process,” JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam told Reuters by telephone. JEM accused Sudan’s army of bombing its positions and nearby settlements in the Jabel Moun area of West Darfur, close to the border with Chad, over the past two weeks. Joint U.N./African Union peacekeepers said they were not able to confirm the reports as they did not have troops in the area and it was not possible to get other independent verification. No one was immediately available to comment from Sudan’s army but the force has regularly denied mounting any offensives in the remote border area.
JEM was one of two mostly non-Arab rebel groups which took up arms against Sudan’s government in 2003, accusing it of starving the remote western region of funding and marginalising its people. Khartoum, which mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising, announced a new peace push in the region late 2008.
It signed a ceasefire with JEM in Qatar in February this year, as well as a “framework” agreement setting out the terms for future negotiations. Days later, initial discussions reached stalemate when JEM objected to Khartoum starting talks with another Darfur rebel grouping, the Liberation and Justice Movement. Adam said the suspension did not amount to a full withdrawal from the talks and the movement was ready to return to them if Khartoum stopped its military campaign.
“Now the (Khartoum) regime either has to choose the path of war or the path of peace. If the offensive continues against our people we consider taking further measures as well,” he added, declining to go into further details. (Reporting by Andrew Heavens; editing by David Stamp)

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