July 7, 2005

UN envoy seeks Darfur peace deal by year end

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan could begin peace talks with
eastern rebels in August, the top U.N. envoy in the country
said on Thursday, adding he hoped for a full peace deal by the
end of the year between the government and rebels from the
western Darfur region.

But Jan Pronk said the declaration of principles (DOP)
signed between Darfur rebels and the government on Tuesday in
the Nigerian capital Abuja needed to be translated into action
on the ground.

He urged the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) to release
10 aid workers held hostage, and told the government to
reprimand a military commander who was firing mortars over an
aid agency's headquarters in the tense region of Golo in
central Darfur.

"(Eastern) talks could start sometime in August," Pronk
told reporters in Khartoum. He declined to give further

"Peace before the end of this year," he said of Darfur,
"that's the objective."

The DOP agrees broad-based principles for talks, but leaves
the main issues to be discussed in more detail on August 24
when African Union-sponsored negotiations resume.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than
two million driven from their homes in Darfur since rebels took
up arms in early 2003, accusing the government of neglect and
of arming Arab militia to loot and burn non-Arab villages.
Khartoum denies the claim.