An air of optimism hangs over the Darfur peace talks after the main rebel groups indicated their willingness to accept a draft peace deal worked out by negotiators.

Sudan's government and Darfur rebels are under intense pressure from Western and African diplomats to accept a new draft peace deal to end the three-year-old conflict.

Rebels took up arms in early 2003 in ethnically mixed Darfur over what they saw as neglect by the Arab-dominated central government. Since then, tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced.

It has been suggested that the extra four pages of revisions to the 85-page peace plan will allow the rebels greater access to the Sudanese armed forces as well as compensation for war victims and power-sharing.

The latest deadline for achieving a negotiated settlement has passed.

Nigeria, which has been hosting the talks, is pressing for a further 24-hour extension to give all sides time to review the amendments to the deal.