May 31, 2007 / 4:45 PM / 13 years ago

Eritrean president hopes to unite Darfur rebels

ASMARA, May 31 (Reuters) - Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki met rebel leaders from Sudan’s Darfur region on Thursday in the hope of uniting insurgent factions in the restive area, officials said.

Eritrea hopes to play a major role in bringing those Darfur rebels who did not sign a 2006 peace deal to the negotiating table with Khartoum.

Only one Darfur group signed the deal last year and since then, rebels have split into numerous factions.

"The meeting focused on the need for a common platform and a common negotiating team for Darfur. This is just preparatory work for any negotiations," said Yemane Ghebreab, head of political affairs in Eritrea’s ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).

Yemane told reporters in the Eritrean capital that delegations from Chad, Libya and southern Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement attended the meeting.

Sudan has come under mounting pressure from Western governments and human rights groups over a four-year conflict in its western region that has killed some 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.

The United States imposed new unilateral sanctions on Sudan this week and sought support for an international arms embargo out of frustration at Sudan’s refusal to end what the United States called genocide.

One Darfur rebel told reporters after the meeting that he supported sanctions against Khartoum.

"The Sudanese government is playing a very bad role ... they are not serious to find a solution to Darfur. We support the (sanctions)," said Mansour Araba, deputy of general security for Sudan’s Liberation Army (SLA).

There are at least three SLA factions, but Araba did not say which he belonged to.

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