Holdout Darfur rebel group to join peace talks: France

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Exiled Darfur rebel leader Abdelwahid Nur has decided to join peace talks brokered by Qatar, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Friday.

Nur, the head of the Sudanese Liberation Army who lives in Paris, announced his decision during talks with Kouchner late Thursday, providing a boost to the peace effort launched in Doha earlier this year.

"Abdelwahid Nur has indeed confirmed his intention to actively contribute to the Darfur peace process," said Kouchner.

Nur, who has the broadest popular backing in Darfur, had refused to enter peace talks with Khartoum and dismissed the Qatar peace initiative as "ceremonial."

"This new position by the head of the MLS-SLA is the result of several months of talks at the foreign affairs ministry with Abdelwahid Nur," said Kouchner.

"I am pleased that he is finally taking a chance for peace."

The Darfur conflict has claimed about 300,000 lives and displaced 2.7 million people, according to UN figures. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.

Fighting erupted in Darfur in February 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Khartoum and state-backed Arab militias called Janjaweed, demanding greater access to resources and power.

© 2010 AFP

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