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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 02:30 GMT
Struggle to salvage Darfur talks
From right: AU Darfur envoy Salim Ahmed Salim, UN Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson and Libyan minister of African Integration Ali Triki - 28/10/2007
The Sirte talks have been 'rebranded' as a consultation phase
International mediators are struggling to save talks in Libya aimed at ending the four-year war in Darfur.

UN envoy Jan Eliasson said key rebel groups that are boycotting the talks would be given more time to prepare for negotiations with Sudan's government.

Mediators will now travel to Darfur to consult with the main rebel groups before actual peace negotiations are held at an unspecified date.

Some 200,000 people have died and two million have been displaced in the war.

Talks 'rebranded'

Expectations had been widespread that the Sirte gathering was the start of actual negotiations.

But faced with the absence of key Darfuri players, the weekend's talks are now being rebranded as the beginning of an advanced consultation phase, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in the Libyan city of Sirte.

Representatives of Darfur rebel groups - 27/10/2007
Major Darfur rebel groups decided not to attend the Libya talks
"I refuse to state that the peace process is interrupted," said Mr Eliasson, at the end of Sunday's session.

"The real substantial negotiations will start when the parties are prepared," he said.

No date has been announced for these negotiations, but Mr Eliasson told Associated Press news agency that he expects them to begin in three weeks.

Closed-door meetings between the Sudanese delegation and representatives of the six rebel groups who appeared in Sirte begin on Monday.

Rebels splintered

As the talks opened on Saturday, the Sudanese government announced a unilateral ceasefire.

But a UN official told the BBC that hundreds of people were being forcibly removed from a refugee camp on the outskirts of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

The official, who asked not to be named, said she saw men and women guarded by Sudanese soldiers being loaded into trucks.

Map of Sudan

Sudanese officials said the refugees were being taken to a safer camp in a nearby town.

The UN was prevented from speaking to the refugees, the official said.

Two of Darfur's main rebel groups - the SLA-Unity and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) - decided not to attend the Sirte talks after the UN and the AU - who are mediating the talks - invited other rebel groups they claim have little support, said Mohammed Bahr Hamdeen, a senior Jem leader.

Fighting in Darfur began in 2003 when rebels attacked government targets.

Sudan's government then launched a military and police campaign in Darfur.

A 2006 peace deal faltered because it was signed by the Sudanese government and only one rebel group.

The rebel movement then splintered into at least 12 groups and sub-factions.

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