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Sudanese officials and rebel leaders from Darfur started a seventh round of peace talks Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria, as human rights activists lobby harder for sanctions against Khartoum.

The talks were delayed for one week to allow mediation between two leaders of the main rebel group, the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), who both claim the presidency of the movement. The African Union (AU) flew both to Abuja for the next round of the AU-sponsored talks.

Six previous rounds have agreed on little other than a declaration of principles between the two main Darfur rebel groups and the government.

Observers have said they see little hope for success for this round after a split in the SLA leadership earlier this month, but the AU still hopes for progress.

A statement issued by the AU Peace and Security Council said that the AU will "consider future appropriate measures, including sanctions, to be taken against any party that will undermine or constitute an obstacle to the peace process in Darfur."


Sali Mahmoud Osman, a lawyer with the Sudan Organization Against Torture, who works with victims of human rights abuses in the troubled region, says the situation in Darfur has not improved because resolutions have not been implemented.

"This is the most important thing. Without the implementation, it seems that the international community is not serious about the situation," he told IPS.

Osman called on the United States and other Security Council members to end what he described as a "deadlock" in the sanctions process. He criticized three members -- China, Russia and Algeria -- for blocking Security Council attempts to bring sanctions against the Khartoum government or the government-backed militias.

"China, Russia and Algeria do not care very much about the humanitarian situation in Darfur," said Osman.

He and Human Rights Watch are focusing on other powerful members of the Security Council, like the U.S. and Britain, to take control of the plan and ensure the three member states will not block the sanctions.

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