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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 15:11 GMT
Ugandans welcome rebel overture
Ugandan soldier and child
The LRA has abducted tens of thousands of children
Ugandan Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has welcomed a call for peace talks by the deputy commander of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

He said that if the overture was serious it was a welcome development.

"The government will seize any opportunity to bring the suffering of people in northern Uganda to an end," he told the BBC.

The LRA has fought for 19 years. Peace talks were attempted a year ago, but broke down.

"The government is waiting and the government will be ready to meet a delegation of the Lords Resistance Army anytime. So the government is ready," he said.

On Tuesday, LRA deputy commander Vincent Otti told the BBC's reporter in Uganda, Will Ross, on a satellite phone that the LRA was ready to talk.

He said he was speaking with the backing of rebel commander Joseph Kony.

He addedd that he would also be willing to go to the international court to face justice, adding that in his view, the government should also face justice for crimes committed in northern Uganda.

Mr Rugunda said the government would cooperate with the ICC.

Atrocities

Uganda's Anglican Archbishop, Henry Luke Orombi, also welcomed the development.

"Until we sit down and talk with each other and agree, it's not going to be an easy way for us to resolve the northern problem," he told the BBC.

Along with others, these two LRA commanders are wanted by the International Criminal Court based in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ruhakana Rugunda
Ruhakana Rugunda has been less cautious in his comments than some other officials

The LRA has carried out terrible atrocities for the past 19 years, and the civilians have suffered the most.

They are well known for abducting children and forcing them to fight.

Peace talks have been attempted in the past, but with little success, with observers accusing both the rebels and the government of not being committed to the talks.

Our reporter says that President Yoweri Museveni has put more emphasis on a military approach to ending the war, and the rebels have been weakened.

However, the LRA continues to carry out ambushes and close to 1.5 million people have been displaced and are living in camps due to the ongoing insecurity.

This latest call from the LRA is likely to be welcomed by people in northern Uganda who hold on to any glimmer of hope of the war ending.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear the Lord's Resistance Army's offer of talks



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