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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 14:12 GMT
Ugandan LRA rebel truce extended
By Sarah Grainger
BBC News, Kampala

Vincent Otti, second-in-command of Lord's Resistance Army
The rebels have until February 2007 to assemble in southern Sudan
A ceasefire agreed between Uganda's government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels has been extended by two months, a minister has confirmed.

This is the second extension to the truce agreement originally signed by delegates from both parties at peace talks in southern Sudan in August.

There is a new air of optimism at these negotiations which have been plagued by deadlock, walk-outs and slow progress.

The talks are aimed at ending a 20-year war, which has displaced 1.5m people.

Under the original agreement, the LRA had been given until mid-September to assemble at designated points in southern Sudan, in return for a temporary ceasefire by the Ugandan government troops.

The rebels missed the deadline, saying the Ugandan army had surrounded the two assembly areas, threatening their fighters.

The agreement was then extended to December, and the deadline has now been pushed further back until 28 February 2007.

'New spirit'

Ugandan Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem told the BBC, by telephone from the venue of the talks in Juba in southern Sudan, that a new change in spirit on the ground had persuaded the government negotiating team to agree to this extension.

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He confirmed that the agreement was signed on Saturday.

He said a select group of government and LRA representatives were now having direct talks to speed up the peace process.

They were meeting on Monday in the absence of the mediator - southern Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar - and their decisions would be put before the full delegations for their endorsement.

The government team also extended an invitation to the LRA delegates to spend Christmas and New Year in Uganda.

The LRA spokesman at the talks, Obony Olweny, said the team had yet to discuss their response.


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