Nigeria's main armed group will consider reinstating a ceasefire in the oil-producing Niger Delta if the government is willing to begin serious peace talks, the group said on Wednesday.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) lifted a three-month old ceasefire last week and threatened to resume its campaign of violence, which has kept OPEC member Nigeria from pumping above two thirds of its capacity for years.
"MEND will consider the option after we are convinced the government is serious and sincere about engaging our team of negotiators in constructive dialogue on the root issues that has led to years of agitations and armed rebellion," the group's spokesman said in a statement.
MEND, which has been severely weakened by the departure of its commanders for a government amnesty, named a team of negotiators last month that included Nobel Prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka and two retired senior military officials.
But its negotiating team has yet to formally meet with government officials.
President Umaru Yar'Adua has offered to meet with any group that can help address the unrest in the Niger Delta, the heart of Africa's biggest energy sector.
"Mr. President is ready to dialogue with any group or persons who can help bring lasting peace to the Niger Delta," said Olusegun Adeniyi, the president's spokesman.