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Sudan seeks arrest of Darfur rebel leader after group breaks off peace talks with government

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan said Tuesday it is seeking the arrest of the leader of Darfur's most powerful group, which froze peace talks with the government a week ago.

Justice Minister Abdel-Basset Sabdarat has asked Interpol, the international police agency, to help in the arrest of the rebel leader "wherever he may be," the semiofficial news agency Sudanese Media Center reported.

The leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, Khalil Ibrahim, faces charges of conspiracy and murder, the report said.

Ibrahim is currently in Egypt, which has close ties with the government of Sudan.

The rebel group froze peace talks on May 3 after accusing the government of violating a cease-fire. The talks were being mediated by the Gulf nation of Qatar.

The head of the rebel negotiating team, Ahmed Tugod, said the government's decision to seek Ibrahim's arrest will have a negative impact on the peace process.

"The Sudanese government's arrest request has no legal impact but it has potentially put an end to the entire peace negotiating process," Tugod said in a statement Tuesday.

The Justice and Equality Movement signed a cease-fire with the government in April at a meeting in Qatar and was taking part in talks aimed at finding a permanent political deal to end seven years of fighting in Darfur.

The U.N. estimates that some 300,000 people died as a result of violence, disease and displacement since the fighting began in 2003. About 2.7 million people were driven from their homes and their fate remains one of the key unresolved issues, even as fighting has declined over the past year.

The conflict began with a revolt by ethnic African tribesman who accused the Arab-dominated central government of discrimination and neglect.

Sudan's presidential, parliamentary and local elections last month were supposed to go toward healing the conflict, though rebels urged people to boycott the voting. President Omar al-Bashir won re-election despite being charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity by an international court for atrocities committed in the Darfur conflict.