Friday, August 03, 2007


ARUSHA, Tanzania (Reuters) - Darfur rebel factions began arriving in Tanzania on Friday for African Union-United Nations sponsored negotiations aimed at reconciling their differences ahead of peace talks with the Sudanese government.

The talks to end the four-year conflict in western Sudan have taken on a new importance since the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday approved the deployment of 26,000 peacekeeping troops and police to stem the bloodshed in Darfur.

The major factions have loose alliances and are in constant negotiations to form new coalitions.

Here are the major players:

* SLA - Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur - Nur has few troops left based in western Jabel Marra. But from Darfur's largest Fur tribe, he commands huge popular support especially in the camps housing more than 2 million people driven from their homes during the fighting. Nur refuses to attend the Arusha talks.

* JEM - Khalil Ibrahim - Dogged by splits and with claims by JEM's military leadership that it has overthrown Ibrahim, which he denies, observers say JEM is not a significant power on the ground but is included to avoid the group acting as a spoiler. Ibrahim has been sanctioned by the United States for hindering the peace process. His group will be represented at Arusha.

* Jar el-Neby and Suleiman Marajan - Based in North Darfur, these two are important figures with many troops in Darfur. They had wanted a commanders' unity conference before Arusha but have decided to attend the meeting.

* SLA-Unity - Abdallah Yehia. Commanders include Ahmed Kubur in Darfur. SLA-Unity loosely encompasses other prominent SLA rebels including Sherif Harir. Yehia says Unity field commanders will not attend Arusha unless SLA Humanitarian Coordinator Suleiman Jamous is released.

* United Front for Liberation and Development - Sherif Harir. SLA figure Khamis Abdallah and three other smaller factions formed a new umbrella group in Eritrea last month. Each faction alone counts for little on the ground, analysts say, but by virtue of the unification have earned a seat at talks.

* Suleiman Jamous - The elderly Jamous has been virtually imprisoned in a U.N. hospital in Kordofan, a region neighbouring Kordofan, for 13 months. All agree he is influential and respected among Darfuris and all rebel factions. Khartoum says if he leaves the U.N. building he will be arrested. This week 11 prominent activists including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to request his release. Jamous, the SLA humanitarian coordinator, was the liaison between rebels and the world's largest aid operation in Darfur until the United Nations airlifted him to Kordofan for medical treatment last year.

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