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Ethiopia starts peace talks with separatist rebels

Ethiopians gather in Meskel Square for the public funeral ceremony for late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. Thousands of mourners gathered in a public square in Ethiopia's capital on Sunday to pay their final respects to Zenawi, who was praised for lifting many out of poverty but vilified by some for restricting freedoms. Zenawi, who ruled for 21 years, died Aug. 20 of an undisclosed illness in a Belgian hospital. He was 57. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwel

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: The Ethiopian government and separatist rebels say they have started negotiations.

Ethiopian officials and representatives of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, or ONLF, met in Kenya for peace talks last week, the rebels said in a statement Saturday.

Although the rebels said the peace process has been months in the making, it was not clear if negotiations gained momentum after the death of former leader Meles Zenawi, whose government considered the group a terrorist organization. Bereket Simon, Ethiopia's communications minister, confirmed that peace talks are going on.

The rebels want to create an independent state in Ethiopia's Ogaden region, which is inhabited by mostly ethnic Somalis. The ONLF is blamed for an attack in 2007 on a Chinese-run oil field in which scores were killed in Ogaden.

 

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