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U.N., AU name Darfur mediator

July 1, 2008 at 8:59 PM

UNITED NATIONS, July 1 (UPI) -- The United Nations and the African Union have selected a mediator to bring together warring sides and end the violent conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and officials from the AU appointed current U.N. foreign minister of Burkina Faso, Djibril Bassole, as the joint AU-U.N. chief mediator for Darfur, the United Nations reported.

Officials say Bassole's appointment is an effort to intensify peace efforts in a move to end the ongoing violence between the Sudanese government and rebel factions. The selection comes after Bassole played a key role in helping forge a peace agreement between Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro.

Bassole faces steep challenges in Darfur where after five years of violence an estimated 300,000 have been killed and as many as 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes.

On Monday the United Nations reported that the Minni Minawi faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army held 38 peacekeepers from the U.N. mission in northern Darfur hostage at gunpoint for more than five hours.

The U.N. and AU special envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, recently questioned whether the government or the rebel parties were even ready to negotiate.

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