Sudan OKs Darfur cease-fire

SIRTE, Libya — The Sudanese government committed to an immediate cease-fire in Darfur at the opening of peace talks on Saturday, but the expected announcement was not met by similar pledges from rebels, who largely boycotted the U.N.-brokered negotiations.

“The government of Sudan is proclaiming as of now a unilateral cease-fire in Darfur,” said Nafie Ali Nafie, who was heading an important Sudanese delegation to the talks in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte. “We shall not be the first ones to fire arms.”

The U.S. special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, praised the government for its pledge, but cautioned that there had been dozens of previous cease-fire declarations in Darfur broken by both government troops and rebel factions.

The talks are aimed at ending more than four years of fighting that have killed more than 200,000 people in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

With no major rebel players, however, there was little hope that Sirte would lead to a quick peace agreement and mediators said the goal to “create conditions” for effective peace talks to take place.

They said negotiations will also give a larger role to groups representing civilians, which have had little say so far.

“We are going to try very hard to create a framework for the talks,” conference spokesman Ahmed Fauzi said, warning this would be “a long process.”

Immediately after the talks were announced, Adulwahid Elnur, the founder of the Sudan Liberation Army rebels, said he would boycott until the U.N. and African Union have deployed a joint force of 26,000 peacekeepers due in January.

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