The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a major rebel group in Darfur, has cancelled plans to hold more peace talks until the Sudanese government lets back aid groups it expelled from the troubled region.

The announcement marks the latest escalation in the Darfur crisis since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir this month over alleged war crimes in the region. Sudan, which does not recognise the ICC, rejects the charge.

JEM Chairman Khalil Ibrahim told Reuters by telephone that before talks could resume the government should also free prisoners from the movement, in line with an agreement the two sides reached in February in the Qatari capital Doha.

The Sudanese government expelled 13 foreign and three local aid groups from Darfur this month, saying they had collaborated with the ICC. The expulsions could aggravate the humanitarian crisis in three refugee camps in Darfur, aid groups say.

“The movement cannot negotiate with the government of Bashir,” Ibrahim said. “The Justice and Equality Movement has declared a state of emergency among its ranks and is prepared to protect the people of Darfur.”

United Nations officials say that as many as 300,000 people have died in six years of conflict in Darfur between African rebels and the Arab-dominated government. Khartoum says 10,000 people have lost their lives.



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