Friday, November 03, 2006

Sudan News Update: President Omar al-Bashir Attends Sino-African Summit While Bush Imposes Sanctions

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Beijing

News Article by AP posted on November 02, 2006 at 12:50:46: EST (-5 GMT)

China's Hu discusses Darfur crisis with Sudanese president

Beijing, 02 Nov (AP) --Chinese President Hu Jintao told Sudan's president Thursday that the conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur has reached "a critical stage" and urged Sudan to step up its diplomacy on the matter.

Hu's comments marked a rare public foray for the Chinese president into Beijing's much criticized relations with Sudan, a major supplier of oil to China. Western governments and rights groups have accused Beijing of using its U.N. Security Council membership to protect Sudan from pressure over Darfur, where 200,000 people have died in three years of conflict.

"The Darfur issue is now at a critical stage. China fully understands the concerns of Sudan and hopes Sudan can strengthen the dialogue with all parties," state-run China Central Television quoted Hu as telling Sudanese President Omar al Bashir in Beijing.

Hu's remarks came as Bashir and the leaders of 47 other African nations gathered in Beijing for a landmark summit meant to highlight the positive side of China's growing role in Africa.

During the weekend summit, China will announce a package of major assistance, investment, trade and other projects with Africa during the weekend summit, the official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday, citing Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wei Jianguo.

In the run-up to the summit, however, calls have risen for China to use its growing economic clout in Africa to improve human rights. New York-based Human Rights Watch said China was supporting African governments responsible for some of the continent's worst human rights violations and particularly cited Sudan and Zimbabwe.

"China insists that it will not 'interfere' in other countries' domestic affairs, but it also claims to be a great friend of the African people and a responsible major power," Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "But that doesn't square with staying silent while mass killings go on in Darfur."

Bashir's government has been accused of unleashing brutal militiamen known as Janjaweed to quell an uprising against the government. In addition to the dead, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced in the conflict.

Earlier Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao defended Beijing's assistance to Africa as beneficial and said the Sudanese government's interests had to be respected in resolving the Darfur issue.

"As to the cooperation between China and Africa, that is for the well-being of the peoples of both sides," Liu told a regular news conference. "We never try to impose our social systems and values and ideologies on other countries. We believe that other countries have the wisdom and the right to decide their own way of development."

While China believed the United Nations should play a role in helping to ease fighting in Darfur, the Sudanese government's concerns were also important, Liu said.

"The United Nations should and can play an active role in the settlement of this issue, but in the meantime we believe that on the specific measures, the international community needs to respect and get the consent of the Sudanese government," Liu said.

The U.N. has authorized 20,000 troops to replace an under-equipped force of 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, but the Sudanese government has rejected the U.N. force and last month expelled the U.N.'s Sudan envoy.

Critics have said China's arms exports to Darfur have helped fuel the conflict. Beijing has defended its expanding relations with Sudan as "mutually beneficial," and that its dealings with the African nation have helped to improve that country's human rights record.

SUDAN: Bashir "refuses" UN force, despite Chinese mediation

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

BEIJING, 3 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir reaffirmed on Friday his opposition to a United Nations peacekeeping force in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, despite mediation by China's president, Hu Jintao.

"We refuse to accept the entry of UN peacekeepers into Sudan because the impact of our refusal is better than the impact of our acceptance," Bashir said, speaking in Arabic at a news conference at Sudan’s embassy in the Chinese capital of Beijing. "We dare not think of what the consequences would be of them being there."

Bashir, in Beijing for a major summit of Chinese and African leaders, said UN involvement in Sudan would be equivalent to the United States’ presence in Iraq.

He added that war in Darfur only affected seven regions, and the number people who had died because of the fighting had not exceeded 10,000. Darfur’s main problems, he went on, were public health-related and similar to those found in the rest of Sudan.

The fighting in Darfur began in 2003, pitting the Sudanese army and allied Arab militias against rebel groups who said they had taken up arms to fight for greater autonomy for the western Sudanese region.

Aid agencies and human rights groups estimate that some 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict, while 2.5 million people have fled their homes because of massacres, mass rape, looting and village burning.

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, 218,000 predominantly Sudanese women and children have also fled into eastern Chad which borders Darfur. They have been living in refugee camps for the last four years.

With a 40 percent stake in Sudan’s oil fields, China has moved aggressively to fill the gap left by departing US and Canadian companies that have divested from Sudan in protest at the war in Darfur.

Western diplomats at the UN said China provides diplomatic cover for Sudan at the Security Council, where China is one of five veto-wielding permanent members. It was China’s refusal to agree to the resolution authorising peacekeepers for Darfur that led to the inclusion of a clause requiring Khartoum’s consent first, diplomats said.

On Thursday, Bashir met Chinese President Hu Jintao who said he "understands" Sudan’s decision to refuse UN peacekeepers.

"The Chinese side admires and supports Sudan in the realisation of north-south peace and is willing to participate in the rebuilding," China Central Television (CCTV) quoted Hu as telling Bashir.

"China understands the concerns of the Sudan government on this issue, and hopes that Sudan can maintain dialogue with all sides, adjust its position, and strengthen efforts to reach a proper resolution to maintain a stable situation in Darfur, and continue to improve the humanitarian situation," Hu said in the bilateral meeting.

China was willing to make efforts to bring lasting peace and stability to Darfur, he added.

Bashir said Sudan appreciated China’s insistence that the Security Council only deploy a peacekeeping force with Khartoum’s approval.

"The Chinese side really understands Sudan's position and its considerations behind its refusal," he said.

Chinese officials have previously indicated that China supports better protection for human rights in Sudan, but added that China is using its "own channels" to achieve this.

China has agreed that the UN should have a "more active" role in the issue, but has refused to back any initiatives which go against its bedrock principle of "non-interference" in the internal affairs of other countries.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned militia attacks on eight villages in west Darfur in late October, including a camp set up for 3,500 people who had fled their homes.

Last week, Sudan expelled the UN Secretary-General’s representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk. Human rights groups, the UN, and international media working in Sudan, have all reported that fighting and attacks on civilians have increased in the last two months.

Bush renews US sanctions on Sudan

News Article by AFP posted on November 02, 2006 at 13:06:45: EST (-5 GMT)

WASHINGTON, Nov 1, 2006 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush on Wednesday renewed US economic sanctions on Sudan for one year and left open the door to imposing new ones linked to the violence in Darfur, the White House said.

"I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency and to maintain sanctions against Sudan," Bush said in a letter to the US Congress released by the White House.

The US president cited actions and policies that "are hostile to US interests and pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

The United States has a wide range of economic sanctions in force against Sudan, from bans on trade and all oil and petrochemical transactions to prohibitions on selling defense-relate goods to Khartoum.

In addition, "the United States has designated individuals at the United Nations under targeted sanctions, in the form of an assets freeze and travel ban," said White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Washington "is prepared to pursue the designation of additional individuals that continue to commit violence and impede the peace process in Darfur," he said.

Sanctions won’t hurt 'booming' Sudan

Business Africa Online
02 Nov 2006

Khartoum - Despite the image of Sudan as a land of cracked earth and starving people, its economy was booming, with little help from the West.

Oil has turned it into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa — if not the world — emboldening the nation's already belligerent government and giving it the wherewithal to resist Western demands to end the conflict in Darfur.

American sanctions have kept many companies from Europe and the United States out of Sudan, but firms from China, Malaysia, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates were racing in. Direct foreign investment has shot up from $128mn in 2000 to $2.3bn this year, all while the US government has tried to tighten the screws. "Khartoum is hot — in all ways," said Hashim Wahir, chairman of Petronas Sudan, a branch of the Malaysian national oil company.

As long as Asian countries were eager to trade with Sudan, despite its human-rights record, the US embargo would have minimal effect. The country's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, kept showing his disdain for the West by refusing to allow UN peacekeepers into Darfur, despite continued bloodshed and pressure from the United States.

"The government knows it doesn't need America," said Abda Yahia el-Mahdi, a former finance minister, now a private consultant. "The only people who are being hurt by the sanctions are the Americans, who are missing out on this huge boom."

This might not be completely true as many poorer Sudanese were already losing out from the lack of investment in non-oil areas of the economy, which would certainly be hurt by sanctions. The wealth from this ‘boom’ was hardly evenly shared, and much of Sudan, like Darfur, remained desperately poor.

Indeed, the nation's per capita income was only $640 in 2005, according to the World Bank. But the country's GDP grew 8 percent in 2005, according to the International Monetary Fund, and was predicted to increase by 12 percent this year. Wheat, cotton, and other agricultural items have traditionally been the engines of the economy, but the new growth comes largely because Sudan, which began to export crude oil in 1999, was now producing 512 000 barrels a day — a drop compared to Saudi Arabia or Iran — but enough to bring billions of dollars to a country that until recently was one of the poorest on Earth. The boom was also strengthening the government's hand at home.

Over the past few years, Bashir has been on an infrastructure binge, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into roads, bridges, power plants, hospitals and schools, projects that tend to boost any government's popularity. Bashir seemed to desperately need it, with many people across the country, not just in Darfur, openly rebelling against his rule.

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