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Rival rebel leaders from the Sudanese region of Darfur sounded a rare note of unity on Monday as they worked on a common negotiating position for the seventh round of peace talks with the government.

Minni Arcua Minnawi and Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, who both claim to be chairman of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), said they would put on hold infighting that has held back progress in previous rounds of peace talks in the Nigerian capital.

"I don't want to make any competition here because our people on the ground need us to remain united. Any division and the only winner is the government of Sudan," Nur told Reuters in Abuja, where the talks are due to start on Tuesday.

Minnawi, who boycotted the previous round and whose participation is seen as crucial because he commands loyalty from many fighters in the field, had a similar message.

"We are going to enter the talks with one delegation ... I came here because I hope this should be the final round," he told Reuters.

The newfound quest for rebel unity also stretched to include the smaller Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which will be part of the joint negotiating position.

"We in JEM think that the unification of these two groups (the Minnawi and Nur factions) will help the process go forward and will help us all together to achieve the goals of our people," said JEM chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod.

The rebels said they were eager to start discussing the issues of wealth-sharing, power-sharing and security that lie at the root of the Darfur conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million into makeshift camps in the vast desert region.


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