Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:11am EST Reuters report by Andrew Heavens, Khartoum:
Darfur factions pour scorn on new Sudan talks
Darfur factions poured scorn on new talks between Sudan's government and a single rebel group on Tuesday, saying the meeting would fail because it excluded other movements.
Discussions between Sudan's government and Darfur's powerful rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) started in Qatar on Tuesday morning, the first time the warring sides have officially sat down together since 2007.
Officials present said both sides made opening statements saying they would discuss confidence-building measures that could pave the way to full peace negotiations.
But the criticisms from other Darfur factions underlined the huge challenge facing mediators trying to end Darfur's conflict involving government troops and an increasingly fractious array of rebels, militias, bandits and tribal groups.
Minni Arcua Minnawi, the only rebel to sign a troubled peace deal with the government in the Nigerian city of Abuja in 2006, told reporters the new Qatar talks would be "a major disaster".
"If the Abuja agreement was lacking then what is happening in Qatar is lacking even further," said Minnawi.
The 2006 accord is widely believed to have failed because no other groups signed it.
Suleiman Jamous, a senior member of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army's Unity faction said Khartoum and mediators had mistakenly concluded JEM was the biggest rebel group in Darfur.
"The government has ignored the other groups....It will be the same as what happened with Minnawi," he told Reuters.
The head of the insurgent United Resistance Front faction Bahar Idriss Abu Garda said the sole involvement of JEM proved mediators behind the talks were not impartial. "How can you be neutral and call one movement for negotiations," he said.
The Qatar talks have already been dismissed by SLA founder Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed al-Nur, who is refusing to negotiate before the end of violence in Darfur.
JEM defended its presence. "We are the only people who are engaged militarily or politically with the government in terms of opposing the regime," said spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam.
"If these people are ready for peace, we are ready for peace. But if they are not, our options are open."
JEM has launched a number of headline-grabbing campaigns in Darfur, attacking Khartoum in May and seizing one of Minnawi's strongholds in south Darfur last month.
Adam added JEM's leader Khalil Ibrahim was planning to fly from Chad to Doha later on Tuesday to attend the discussions as "a gesture of good will".
Adam said JEM would pull out of the session if there was any sign that Khartoum was using the talks to deflect a looming International Criminal Court war crimes case against Sudan's president.
The chief prosecutor of the global court has asked judges to issue an arrest warrant against Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accusing him of masterminding genocide in Darfur.
The court's judges are expected to rule on his request in the coming weeks.
International experts say 200,000 have died and 2.7 million been driven from their homes since JEM and other rebels took up arms against Khartoum in 2003, accusing it of neglecting the development of the region.