Monday, May 31, 1999 Published at 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK
Sierra Leone talks enter critical phase
The Sierra Leone military has failed to defeat the rebels
By Mark Doyle in Freetown
The prospect for ending a conflict, which has made an estimated one million people homeless and killed tens of thousands, is better than for many years.
A ceasefire declared to coincide with the peace talks is shaky but holding.
The two sides are now expected to get down to the real issues at hand:
Most of the international community, led politically in the former British colony by Tony Blair's government, supports the elected Sierra Leonean President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. A British army team is currently here to help train his troops.
The democratically-elected president of Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was inaugurated this weekend, said in his first speech that he will encourage the Sierra Leone peace talks in the hope that this would mean some of his troops coming home.
A number of the elements are now in place for a possible deal to end the Sierra Leonean war, but this country has had false dawns before and whether the rebels are really committed to peace and democracy is far from clear.