Nigerian Militants Say Carter Could End Attacks on Oil Companies

Carter would "seriously consider" mediating if invited by militants and gov.'t.

ByANNA SCHECTER

May 6, 2008— -- The attacks on U.S. and European oil facilities in Nigeria could end if former U.S. President Jimmy Carter mediates peace talks, the spokesman of a Nigerian militant group said today in an e-mail message to ABC News.

"President Carter represents transparency, impartiality, humility and integrity; four key ingredients critical in the mediator recipe towards ensuring a genuine and enduring peace process for the region," said Jomo Gbomo of the Nigerian rebel group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

MEND, which claims it is fighting for a more just distribution of the country's billions of dollars of oil revenue, has attacked several pipelines since the start of this year. The group is responsible for kidnapping more than 100 foreign oil workers last year and has repeatedly attacked oil facilities in the Niger Delta region since late 2005.

Carter would "seriously consider" mediating between Nigerian militants and the Nigerian federal government if he was invited by both parties, according to Carter Center Vice President John Stremlau, who was asked by Gbomo in an e-mail if Carter would help facilitate peace talks. "President Carter is a man of peace. He was involved in the Nigerian Delta in 1999 and knows how important it is to resolve this conflict," said Stremlau.

He said Gbomo's statement today, which implied that Carter has already accepted an invitation to mediate in the Niger Delta conflict, was "premature."

"Carter would seriously consider undertaking a mission if he were formally invited by all relevant stakeholders in the Niger Delta conflict. In addition to MEND, this would include the federal government of Nigeria and others whose interests would have to be represented in such a negotiation," said Stremlau. But so far the invitation has come only from MEND.

The group said it will call off all hostilities and hold a temporary cease-fire in honor of Carter should the Nigerian government accept Carter's initiative.

"Now the ball is in the court of the government," said Gbomo.

In a public letter addressed to President Bush last month, the group said it implored Carter to help mediate the Niger Delta crisis in light of his meeting with Hamas. Carter met with Hamas in April to effort an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The State Department said it counseled Carter against meeting with Hamas.

Gbomo said his group urges the Nigerian government to accept Carter's mediation in place of the Niger Delta Summit scheduled to be held in Abuja, which it called a "jamboree."

"We do not believe the Abuja summit will achieve any meaningful goal and have no interest in attending it," said Gbomo.

The Nigerian Embassy said the Niger Delta Summit issue is extremely sensitive and declined further comment.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would not endorse an effort by Carter to mediate but pointed out there are established mechanisms in place to resolve the conflict.

A senior State Department official said no one in the department has met with Carter about the issue.

ABC News' Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

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