Sudan and surrounding countries.

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) – African leaders attending the African Union’s special summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Abuja on Thursday took turns to appeal to the parties at the Darfur peace talks to sign the peace deal which many hoped would help end the two years of fighting in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region.
 AU Commission chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare urged all the parties to sign the peace agreement prepared by AU mediators at the talks in the Nigerian capital.
 “They must also commit themselves to implementing it (agreement). We’ve had enough of conflicts, wars and warlords,” Konare said at the opening of the assembly of the heads of state and government’s session of the special summit.
 Taking a cue from the appeal, AU chair and President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo, said efforts were continuing to convince the rebel fighters to sign the peace accord.
 “There will be more discussions today with the hope that we shall reach a conclusion,” Nguesso said.
 Also joining in the appeal, former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda urged the parties to ensure a successful conclusion to the talks in the interest of their peoples.
 “I am glad to hear the government of Sudan has not said they will not support the AU document,” he said, referring to the statement by the Sudanese government that it was ready to sign the deal.
 “I am hoping that the statement by the government of Sudan is genuine and coming from the heart,” the 82-year-old former leader added.
 While the Sudanese government has agreed to sign, the main rebel groups have so far refused to append their signatures to the peace deal, after expressing reservations with some areas concerning power and wealth sharing as well as security.
 US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and Britain’s Secretary for International Development, Hilary Benn, have been in Abuja to help pressure the rebels to sign the document.
 Host President Olusegun Obasanjo met with Zoellick and Benn late on Wednesday for the talks, while Nguesso and Konare immediately joined the talks on arrival.
 The parties have missed two deadlines set by the AU for them to wrap up the talks, which started in Nigeria over two years ago. The latest deadline expires midnight on Thursday.
 Some 200,000 people have died and over two million displaced since the rebels took up arms to fight against the government over injustice, insecurity and a share of scarce resources in the Darfur region.