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Nigerian amnesty deal with militants unravels

Three weeks into a cease-fire pact, some rebels are turning themselves in. But the main group – MEND – say they'll attack oil facilities on Sept. 15.

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Nigeria's latest plan to end militant attacks in the volatile Niger River delta that have cut oil production to a 20-year low appears to have collapsed.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed the plan during a visit to Nigeria earlier this month, in hopes of bringing some semblance of peace to a region that is a major US source of foreign oil.

But the delta's main militant group over the weekend dismissed the three-week-old plan as "a charade" and vowed to resume attacks after a cease-fire expires Sept. 15.

The plan, which offered amnesty to any militant who laid down his arms during a 60-day period, began with fanfare three weeks ago, but it now seems unlikely to achieve anything more than a brief respite from the violence.

Experts and activists say the plan doesn't address any of the rebels' key demands: jobs, economic development and a greater share of oil wealth for the delta, where millions live in extreme poverty while Western energy giants and Nigerian politicians pocket billions of dollars annually in oil revenues.

Critics call it a half-hearted measure by a government desperate to shore up a listing industry that's contributed to instability in world energy markets. Nigerian crude exports have fallen by nearly 40 percent from 2006 amid an escalating militant campaign of sabotage, oil siphoning, kidnappings of foreign oil workers and confrontations with security forces.

"It looks like the bottom line is to rein in the violence to allow the oil production and export to continue, and then get back to business as usual," said Nnamdi K. Obasi, a Nigeria-based analyst for the International Crisis Group research agency. "People in the delta say this doesn't respond to their demands."


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