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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 09:28 GMT
Uganda forces 'agree pull-back'
Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony (file image)
Rebel leader Joseph Kony was delighted to see his mother
Uganda's army and rebels have agreed to pull their forces apart, after talks between the president and the deputy rebel leader, a local official says.

The reported deal seems to be intended to restore confidence in faltering peace talks in southern Sudan.

This is the first time President Yoweri Museveni has spoken to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leadership.

The talks have been seen as the best chance to end the 20-year rebellion, which has displaced 1.5m people.

Last month, the LRA suspended participation in peace talks with the government, with the Ugandan army denying claims that they killed three rebel fighters heading to assembly areas in southern Sudan.

'Overwhelmed'

Col Walter Ochora, a senior local official in the northern town of Gulu, told a local radio station that President Museveni had spoken to LRA deputy leader Vincent Otti for about 30 minutes by telephone.

"I called the president to brief him about the meeting between [LRA leader Joseph] Kony and his mother," Col Ochora told Mega FM.

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"As we were speaking, Otti asked whether he could have the opportunity to speak to the president, which he [Museveni] honoured."

Col Ochora said that Mr Kony was delighted to meet his mother, Norah Anek Oting, 83, for the first time since he launched his rebellion.

"I and my commanders are overwhelmed by the government's generosity in facilitating this meeting between me and my mother," Mr Kony reportedly said after meeting his mother on Saturday.

Under the deal reached between Mr Otti and Mr Museveni, LRA fighters would withdraw to north of the Juba-Torit road, while the army would remain east of the Nimule-Juba road, Col Ochora said.

Mr Otti complained that a previous agreement for LRA fighters to leave the bush had failed because the soldiers were too close to the assembly zones.

The leader of the government delegation at the peace talks, Ruhakana Rugunda, could not confirm the reported deal and talks but told the Daily Monitor newspaper that what Col Ochora said was "authentic".

Last week, Mozambique's former President Joaquim Chissano was named as the United Nations envoy to help resolve the conflict.

Outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Mr Chissano would also liaise with the International Criminal Court (ICC), where LRA leader Joseph Kony and four other senior figures have been indicted for war crimes.

The LRA say the arrest warrants must be lifted before they agree to end the war.


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