Nigeria considers amnesty for delta rebels

Nigeria considers amnesty for delta rebels Nairobi/Abuja  - Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua said he was considering an amnesty for rebels in the Niger Delta, who severely damage the West African country's economy with attacks on pipelines and oil-production facilities.

His government was discussing measures on how to reintegrate the rebels into society if they disarm, Yar'Adua said after a meeting of leaders of the ruling People's Democratic Party, the BBC reported.

"We are working on terms for the granting of amnesty for those who are prepared to lay down their arms," the president said.

At the same time, he promised increased support for the army's fight against armed groups in the delta. This double strategy was to be discussed further at a meeting of Nigeria's national security council next week.

However, main militant groups dismissed the offer. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it would not give up its arms because of a "mere verbal statement" from Yar'Adua.

Political groups like MEND as well as criminal gangs regularly attack oil-production facilities or kidnap oil workers in Nigeria's rich Niger Delta, thereby cutting the country's crude output.

The past three years of unrest have led foreign oil companies to move staff out of the region.

Last year, Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, had to adjust its budget because the attacks diminished foreign earnings. (dpa)