UN Holds Landmark Meeting with Ugandan Rebel Leader

The United Nations Humanitarian Chief, Jan Egeland, has held a landmark meeting with Ugandan rebel leader, Joseph Kony, in an attempt to boost peace talks in Africa.

|PIC1|The Lord's Resistance Army has so far held a 20-year insurgency in Uganda, and the latest developments have reignited hopes of an end to hostilities.

The meeting was brief, lasting just 10 minutes, and took place at a remote camp on the south Sudan border.

Egeland had tried to make a condition to the meeting after the rebels had agreed to free abducted children, however, he was unable to negotiate these terms with them. The UN representative described the situation as the world's most neglected humanitarian disaster.

Making his way to the rebel camp on Sunday morning, Egeland was accompanied by a number of senior Sudanese officials, and upon waiting for the meeting to begin was left waiting for more than two hours, the BBC has reported.

A green UN tent was set up to hold the meeting in which Egeland said the LRA had agreed to give the UN an assessment of how many rebels existed within the camp.

Speaking to reporters, Kony denied kidnapping children or women and holding people against their will. He declared: "We don't have any children or wounded, only combatants."

Kony also is reported to have used the meeting to ask Egeland to cancel an arrest warrant that has been issued against him by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. However, Egeland has no influence over the decisions of that court.

Egeland said, "I was able to bring up the situation for the civilian population in northern Uganda, the absolute necessity for them to continue respecting the cessation of hostilities."

Prior to the weekend's meeting, Kony, who has led the LRA through 20 years of civil war in northern Uganda, had only appeared twice before in front of journalists.

His tactics have been extremely controversial, however, with his fighters accused of abducting children and driving more than 1.5 million people from their homes.

Sudan has recently been hosting talks with the Ugandan government and rebel leaders, but Kony has refused to attend in case he is arrested.

Progress has continuously stalled over recent months, with arguments over ceasefire violations and whether LRA fighters are really gathering at two designated assembly points. Although the meeting with Egeland was just a small step, it has re-injected a glimmer of hope to negotiations again.