OCTOBER 28 2007 11:11h
Another rebel delegate, Ahmed Ibrahim Diraige, said: There are contacts under way to bring the others.
Participants at Darfur peace talks in Libya called on absent rebel chiefs on Sunday to abandon a boycott and join the gathering to help efforts to end violence in the Sudanese region.
As talks moved into a second day in Libya's Sirte town, government and rebel delegates said wider participation was needed to give the meeting a greater chance of ending 4-1/2 years of bloodshed in the devastated western region.
Many rebel leaders are not attending the gathering, complaining at what they call government-inspired violence and a refusal by U.N. mediators to heed requests for a delay to allow them to form a united position and agree on a delegation.
"Nothing will be decided, including any endorsement of the ceasefire, until this goal is achieved -- more participation of the movements," rebel delegate Alhadi Agabeldour told Reuters, referring to a truce declared by Khartoum on Saturday.
"The most we could achieve from this meeting is to give more time for more participation of the other rebels."
Sudanese government expert Abdelrahman Ibrahim said: "The government wants the U.N. to put pressure on those who are not attending the talks (to attend)."
Another government official, Abdelrahman Moussa, said: "We ask the mediators of the U.N. and AU to make clear to those who are not attending that those who reject talks will have to pay the price."
The African Union-United Nations-mediated conference seeks to end a conflict that has sparked U.S. accusations -- dismissed by Sudan -- of genocide. Much of the killing has been blamed on a government-allied militia known as the Janjaweed.
Recently rebels have been blamed for attacks on African Union peacekeepers. In some cases, experts say, the rebel command structure has broken down to the point that the groups represent no constituency and are nothing more than bandits.
At the talks' opening on Saturday the Sudanese government declared an immediate unilateral ceasefire, but the absence of key rebels cast doubt on whether it could be implemented. A 2004 ceasefire was rendered meaningless by repeated violations by all sides of the conflict.
Said Djinnit, the African Union's Peace and Security Commissioner, told Reuters mediators were listening to the government and rebels.
"At the end of the day we will make a synthesis, with the priority being to quickly reach a solution that guarantees the best conditions (for peace efforts)," Djinnit told Reuters.
The talks are the first attempt to gather Darfur rebels and the government around a negotiating table since 2006 when the AU mediated Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.
Signed by only one rebel faction, the Abuja deal had little support among the 2 million Darfuris in displacement camps.
Rather than bring peace, it triggered fresh violence, as rebels split into more than a dozen factions, some preying on civilians, aid workers and AU troops sent to the region to quell the violence but unable to protect themselves.
On the eve of the Sirte meeting, two main rebel groups -- the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army Unity faction -- said they would not attend.
That decision emerged after another rebel chief, Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, founder of a third group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), said he would not attend the talks. JEM-SLA Unity represent the biggest military threat to the Sudanese government and Nur has the most popular support among Darfuris.
Analysts have warned that without full rebel representation the Libya talks would go the way of the Abuja deal.
"RIGHTS EQUAL PEACE"
Experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million uprooted in violence since mostly non-Arabs took up arms in early 2003 accusing Khartoum of neglect. Khartoum puts the deaths at 9,000 and says the West exaggerates the conflict.
Rebel leader Bechir Tadjadine Niam told the conference peace could only come if Darfuris' rights were respected.
"Our rights equal peace. If we have no rights, there will be no peace," he said. "We tell the government we are ready to move to the middle ground. They have to do the same."
Khartoum agreed in July to allow a hybrid force of 26,000 U.N.-AU troops to deploy in Sudan to replace and absorb some 7,000 AU peacekeepers in western Sudan.
That deployment is expected to begin by year-end but, without a deal, some nations might be loath to commit troops.