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Suspension of Darfur peace talks 'not cause for pessimism'
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The likely suspension of Darfur peace negotiations will allow for more constructive talks later, the Chinese special envoy to Africa said yesterday.


"The adjournment is not a sign of failure. It's a preparation for other steps," Liu Guijin said.


Jan Eliasson, the chief UN envoy of an UN-African Union mediation team, would not say when the talks, which opened on Saturday in Sirte, a coastal Libyan city, would adjourn but stressed the step was necessary to allow for full-fledged negotiations.


"Only after that period ... of approximately three weeks, will we get into substantial negotiations," Eliasson said.


No major Darfur rebel chief was present for the opening of the talks on Saturday, dashing hopes that a quick peace agreement could be reached to end the four-year conflict.


In a sign of progress, the Sudanese government announced a unilateral new ceasefire at the start of the talks on Saturday.


Liu urged the parties to the negotiations to reach a comprehensive peace accord, which will ensure the presence of a peacekeeping mission, reconstruction and economic development in the region.


The main opposition factions in Darfur should forge a united front and take part in the process of political talks, Liu said.


China's proposal for a two-pronged approach - political negotiations and a peacekeeping mission - has begun to be accepted by the international community, Wang Yingying, director of the department of African studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told China Daily yesterday.


Some Western countries had overemphasized the importance of peacekeeping and ignored the necessity of a political solution; but now they have discovered such an approach didn't work very well, Wang said.


"They began to realize that, without compromises from the government or rebel groups sitting around the negotiating table, it is difficult to even start the peacekeeping mission."


Despite the absence of the chiefs of major rebel groups, it doesn't mean that political negotiations have come to a dead-end, Wang said.


"It means that a political solution requires more time and patience. Two or three conferences are not enough to resolve such a big problem," she said.


"But we did see that thanks to increasing pressure upon rebel groups, some of them did join the peace talks and more are expected to follow," she added.


(China Daily October 29, 2007)

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