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Nigeria sends special envoy to Chad and Sudan for Darfur talks


ABUJA, July 26 (AFP) — Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo will this week send a special envoy, former military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar, to Sudan and neighbouring Chad for talks on the crisis in Darfur, his office said Monday.

The 62-year-old retired general, who previously served as Obasanjo’s envoy to the Liberian peace process, is due to return to Abuja by Thursday to brief Obasanjo before a summit of west African leaders in Accra, Ghana.

"General Abubakar will, this wweek, visit Chad and Sudan for talks and on-the spot assessment of the crisis in the Sudan, especially Darfur," said a statement issued by Obasanjo’s spokeswoman Oluremi Oyo.

Obasanjo, the current chairman of the African Union (AU), will in turn brief his colleagues and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Accra on Thursday on moves to bring to an end the fighting in Darfur, a western region of Sudan.

According to the United Nations between 30,000 and 50,000 people have been killed and 1.2 million displaced since February 2003, when fighting erupted between rebel Darfur fighters and the government-backed Janjaweed militia.

Some 200,000 refugees have fled into neighbouring Chad.

The United Nations describes the events as the "world’s worst humanitarian crisis" and US Congress has branded the Janjaweed attacks a "genocide".

The African Union has taken the lead in trying to mediate an end to the fighting, and the 53-nation body is planning to send some 300 military observers to the region, a possible precursor to an international force.

Abubakar was Nigeria’s military head of state from 1998 to 1999, when he oversaw the country’s transition to civilian rule, and has been brought out of retirement by Obasanjo to undertake high-profile diplomatic missions.

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