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Ugandan rebels walk out of peace talks

Uganda rebels have quit peace talks aimed at ending a brutal 19-year conflict in which thousands of civilians have died.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2006 18:45 IST

Uganda rebels have quit peace talks aimed at ending a brutal 19-year conflict in which thousands of civilians have died, Ugandan state media reported on Thursday.

Lord's Resistance Army rebels said they were boycotting the talks with the government because of a heavy military build up by the Ugandan army, officials were quoted as saying in the government-owned The New Vision newspaper.

"The Juba peace talks are in grave threat and danger of failure due to the unfolding heavy military deployment of UPDF (Uganda People's Defence Forces) troops in Uganda, Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo," said a statement signed by the head of the rebel team negotiating a peace deal with the government, Martin Ojul.

Ojul said they handed the statement to Southern Sudan Vice President Dr Riek Machar, who is the chief mediator of the peace talks in the southern Sudan capital, Juba.

The said they would review there position in seven days. Ugandan army Maj Felix Kulayigye denied they are deployed anywhere near rebels.

The announcement is the second serious blow in two days to the ongoing talks.

On Wednesday the Ugandan army accused rebels of violating the increasingly fragile truce, which was signed last month, by leaving neutral assembly points.

The cease-fire calls for rebel fighters to gather at two assembly points in largely inhabited areas across the border in southern Sudan, where they will be protected and monitored while a broader peace deal is negotiated.

The rebels denied they had quit the camps.

The LRA is notorious for cutting off the tongues and lips of innocent civilians, enslaving thousands of children and driving nearly 2 million people from their homes.

The LRA was formed from the remnants of a northern Uganda rebellion that began in 1986 after President Yoweri Museveni, a southerner, overthrew a brutal military junta.

LRA leader Joseph Kony mixed politics with religious mysticism, declaring himself a Christian prophet fighting to rule this country of 26 million people according to the Ten Commandments.

UN officials estimate the LRA has kidnapped 20,000 children in the past 19 years, turning the boys into soldiers and the girls into sex slaves for rebel commanders.

The rebel leadership are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Earlier this year the ICC pressed Uganda, Sudan and Congo to hand the rebel suspects over for trial.

However, Museveni has said he will not implement the warrants as long as Kony's group negotiates peace.

First Published: Sep 28, 2006 18:45 IST