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Darfur peace may be possible after talks

Jan. 21, 2008 at 7:44 PM

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- U.N. and African Union officials say peace in Darfur may be possible after meetings with the Sudan government and rebel groups.

U.N. Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim led a weeklong effort to jumpstart the peace process for the Darfur region of Sudan. Officials say they are hopeful that the talks can reconvene soon, the United Nations reported.

"Our overall impression is that there seems to be cause for some degree of hope and optimism," Salim said in a statement.

The United Nations estimates the violence in Darfur between rebels fighting government forces and the Janjaweed allied militia since 2003 has led to the displacement of more that 2.2 million people and the death of 200,000 others.

Salim said talks with the five main rebel groups including Sudan Liberation Army Unity, the United Resistance Front, the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement have shown signs of progress.

"We are gratified to note that these months have been used well by the movements, at least by some of them, to deepen that consultation and to provide some degree of unity," Salim said.

Despite the limited progress, Eliasson is calling for a decrease in violence for further talks to prove successful.

"We have therefore urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint, and create that climate necessary for productive talks," Eliasson said.

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