Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sudan Demands UN Apology After Falsehoods Were Spread About Darfur

Oct 20, 7:44 PM EDT

Sudan Demands Apology From U.N. Envoy

Associated Press Writer

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- Sudanese officials demanded an apology Friday from the chief U.N. envoy to Sudan, saying he made "unacceptable" comments about battles between troops and rebels in Darfur. The military reportedly said Jan Pronk was "persona non-grata."

Pronk, a former Dutch diplomat, wrote Oct. 14 on his personal Web blog that the government forces had lost "two major battles" in Darfur where they have been waging a counterinsurgency against rebels from the western region's ethnic African population.

"Losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles, many wounded soldiers and many taken as prisoner," Pronk wrote. "The morale in the government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused fighting."

The military said the remarks by Pronk amounted to
"psychological war against the Sudanese army."

A state television broadcast also ran a statement from the Sudanese military that said Pronk, the head the U.N. mission in Sudan, was "persona non-grata."

The Foreign Ministry did not say that Pronk would be asked to leave Sudan, but state TV quoted Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Amin as saying he expected "the political and the military leaderships to take further measures to either expel Pronk or ask him to leave."

In New York, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body has no formal communication from Sudan that Pronk has been declared persona non-grata. The United Nations requires staff to get permission before publishing books but has no rules about blogs, he said.

"There are no specific staff regulations on the use of personal blogs by U.N. staff members but we do expect those staff members to exercise proper judgment in what they include," Dujarric said.

Dire for Civilians in Darfur

Dujarric said the U.N. had held several discussions with Pronk about his blog, though he would not characterize them. However, two U.N. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because those conversations were private, said Pronk had been explicitly asked to stop writing about his work in the blog.

"Of course we've been telling him to do that," one of the officials said. "But there's very little anybody can do about it except Mr. Pronk."

U.N. officials in Khartoum were not immediately available for comment as press officers did not answer their phones Friday evening.

Sudan's government has been at odds with Pronk over Western efforts to get Sudan to allow a U.N. force of 20,000 troops to take over peacekeeping in Darfur - a move President Omar al-Bashir has flatly rejected as neo-colonialism. At present, an under-powered African Union force of 7,000 is struggling to keep order in the arid region.

European Union leaders called on Sudan on Friday to accept the UN Security Council resolution that would send peacekeepers to Darfur.

The violence has risen dramatically in recent weeks in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in three years of fighting.

In his blog, Pronk speaks of his contacts with all the warring parties in Darfur, evidently seeing such talks as part of his mission to try to restore the cease-fire and enable the flow of UN aid to civilians.

He also reports that the Khartoum government has been making "secret overtures" to rebel groups that did not sign the Darfur peace accord of May.

Pronk's remarks constituted "blatant intervention in the armed forces' affairs," the military said in its statement.

The military accused the UN envoy of having inappropriate contact with the Darfur rebels, saying "Pronk deals with the rebels and visits them without government approval."
On the Net

Jan Pronk's blog:

News Article by AFP posted on October 19, 2006 at 11:18:03: EST (-5 GMT)

Sudan says BBC's repentant Janjaweed a fraud

KHARTOUM, Oct 19, 2006 (AFP) - Khartoum denied ever supporting Darfur's feared Janjaweed militia Thursday and charged that a repentant militiaman who described the regime's atrocities to British media was not credible.

"This individual has made declarations in the hope of being granted political asylum in Britain and I believe this weakens his credibility," foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Saddek told reporters.

The BBC detailed Sudanese government support for the Janjaweed Wednesday, citing an interview with a former militiaman now living in London who admitted killing innocent civilians in Darfur.

"The government supports no armed militia in Darfur and is cooperating with the United Nations and other organisations to restore peace and security," Saddek said, reiterating the regime's longstanding denials that it sponsored the Janjaweed.

"On the contrary, the government is bent on disarming them,"

For his part, State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Mohammed Haroun charged that the report "was part of a campaign aimed at deploying international forces in Darfur".

The Sudanese government and its allied militia stand accused by Washington of genocide in Darfur, where they fiercely repressed an uprising launched by ethnic minority rebels in February 2003.

At least 200,000 people have died from fighting, famine and disease, and more than two million have fled their homes since the conflict erupted.

The UN Security Council adopted in August a resolution calling for the deployment of up to 20,000 peacekeepers to take over from an embattled African Union contingent.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir has consistently rejected such a deployment as a US-engineered conspiracy to occupy his country and plunder its resources.

News Article by MOSNEWS posted on October 20, 2006 at 17:51:37: EST (-5 GMT)

Sudan Asks Russia for $1Bln Loan to Buy Military Equipment — Paper

Moscow News
20 October 2006

Russian daily Kommersant reported on Friday, Oct. 20, that the Sudanese Defense Minister held talks with Russian officials requesting Moscow to secure $1 billion arms loan to buy more military airplanes for the country.

The talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Hussein took place on Thursday, Oct. 19. The Sudanese official asked Russia to sell military jets and helicopters to his county. Moscow has not given any reply yet.

According to the paper, Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir sent a letter to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, asking to sell a large consignment of military jets and helicopters to his country.

Sudan’s Defense Minister Abdelrahim Hussein came to Moscow as a special envoy of President Omar el-Bashir.

Sudan’s leadership has devised a plan on the total re-equipment and modernization of the country’s military forces. The program is for 25 years. Sudenese President offered Russia the role of the key partner. Under the plan, Moscow will provide the Sudanese army with modern weapons and train local specialists to work with new technology, the report said.

However, what these ambitious plans lack is real financial backing. Khartoum simply does not have enough money for the rearmament program. Therefore, the Sudanese ask Russian for a loan to help finance the purchases.

Moscow, however, is not enthusiastic about the idea of $1 billion long-term loan.

The Kremlin still has disquieting memories of multi-billion military supplies to “progressive regimes” which burdened Soviet economy in the 1970s-1980s. At that time, arms were also sold on credit. Moscow ended up with almost none of the debtor paying the money back. As far as Sudan goes, Moscow should not hope to receive real money even in 25 years’ time. Experts say that the country, devastated by the civil war, will be unable to clear any credits.

News Article by REUTERS posted on October 18, 2006 at 16:40:07: EST (-5 GMT)

China says unfair to criticise its Africa oil plans

BEIJING, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Chinese officials accused the United States of double standards on Wednesday for criticising China's oil investments in Africa, and insisted the country had a positive role to play in the continent's development.

China's booming energy demand and Africa's bountiful oil resources are mutually beneficial, the officials said, ahead of a China-Africa forum to be held in Beijing next month.

China has been criticised for investing in or aiding countries such as Sudan, under fire over its human rights record, often in return for access to oil and gas supplies, but an official rejected those accusations.

Zhang Yuqing, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission's energy bureau, said that after state-owned oil giant CNOOC withdrew a bid to buy U.S. producer Unocal in the face of fierce political opposition, the United States seemed not to want China investing anywhere.

"If we can't invest in the U.S. then where would investment be more appropriate, do they think?" Zhang said. "U.S. companies can look for oil in China."

Thirsty for oil and raw materials, China has poured billions into African countries blessed with mineral wealth, building on a legacy of goodwill from its support of independence movements in the 1960s and 1970s.

Western governments have criticised Beijing for failing to attach demands for transparency and accountability to offers of aid, trade and investment extended to some African governments, particularly oil producers Sudan and Angola.

Xu Jinghu, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's African Affairs Department, said China also wanted stability in Africa.

"China completely supports African countries in preserving political stability, human rights and establishing democracy," Xu said, adding that Chinese U.N. peacekeepers had been active in Africa.

"But we stand by one principle -- not interfering in other countries' internal affairs," she said.

"The world is very diverse, and we should trust that all regions, countries and people best understand their national situation and that they have the right to solve their own problems."

China's increasing role in Africa has been equally controversial on the continent itself.

South African trade unions have said ultra-cheap Chinese textile imports are costing local jobs, and China's investments in Zambia, particularly its copper mines, became a focal point in this month's Zambian presidential elections.

"Textile exports have risen quite a bit in recent years, but not in quite the scary way the media has reported," said Zhou Yabin, vice-director of the Commerce Ministry's Western Asian and African Affairs Department.

"The Chinese government understands and sympathises with pain this may have caused in Africa," he said, adding China had given money for African companies to increase their competitiveness.

And China has another, diplomatic reason for focusing on Africa. Some of the fewer than 30 countries in the world which still have official relations with self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers its own, are in Africa, like Burkina Faso and Sao Tome.

Xu said China had invited delegates from the five African countries with no formal ties to Beijing to come to the forum as observers though did not yet know if they would attend.

State Department disappointed U.S. envoy did not meet President el-Bashir

News Article by AP posted on October 20, 2006 at 17:37:59: EST (-5 GMT)

State Department disappointed U.S. envoy did not meet President el-Bashir

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department expressed disappointment Friday that a special U.S. envoy to Sudan did not meet with President Omar el-Bashir while the diplomat was in the country.

A spokesman, Tom Casey, said, "We're disappointed there wasn't a possibility of doing that on this trip," he said referring to envoy Andrew Natsios' visit to Sudan.

"He had a useful series of meetings there with a number of senior government officials as well as" nongovernmental organizations, Casey said. "He did visit not only Khartoum but also Juba in the south and Darfur itself."

In Darfur, he said, Natsios met with government officials, officers with the African Union peackeeping force and humanitarian aid workers, visiting a refugee camp in Nyala.

Casey said Natsios now was in Cairo for talks with members of the Arab League. He is expected ask these countries to put pressure on el-Bashir to accept deployment of a U.N. peackeeping force in Darfar. El-Bashir opposes the force.

The ill-equipped and underfunded AU force is struggling to bring peace to Darfar, a vast region of western Sudan where more than 100,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in two years of fighting.

Khartoum opposes a U.N. Security Council Resolution to replace the 7,000-member AU force with some 20,000 U.N peacekeepers, describing it as a neocolonial move.

Asked about reports the Sudanese military considered Jan Pronk, the head of the U.N. mission in Sudan, "persona non grata," Casey said the United States fully expects "he will be continuing his duties and responsibilities."

A statement from the armed forces read on Sudanese television late Thursday said Pronk's presence "negatively affects the work of the armed forces." The statement did not say he would be asked to leave the country.

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