Wednesday, December 13, 2006

British and US Offer Plans to Attack Sudan

LONDON 13 December 2006 Sapa-AFP


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed plans to impose a
no-fly zone on the western Sudanese region of Darfur in an effort
to pressure Khartoum to stop the violence there, the Financial
Times reported on Wednesday.

Citing unnamed officials, the business daily also said that
American military planners were developing plans for air strikes
and a naval blockade to supplement the no-fly zone.

Blair reportedly voiced his backing for the no-fly zone on a
visit to Washington last week. He also apparently told US President
George W. Bush that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir had to be
dealt with in the next three months.

The prime minister will seek United Nations support for the
plan, which would be enforced by the United States and Britain.

It would be designed to prevent the government from using its
air force and helicopters to attack villages in Darfur, as the UN
and various human rights organisations have alleged.

Meanwhile, an unidentified official was quoted by the FT as
saying that military planning has begun: "The Americans mean

US envoy in Sudan Andrew Natsios visited Darfur over the weekend
in an effort to persuade Khartoum to accept a joint African
Union-UN peacekeeping force there.

"We are very concerned that (Bashir) is buying more time to
continue with military operations in Darfur," an unnamed official
was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

"We need a different game plan," the official said, referring to
an American "Plan B", which the FT said was believed to be a
package of sanctions, apparently involving financial sanctions
against individuals and corporations, and coercive action.

The newspaper also said that unidentified French diplomats said
there had as yet been no approach for cooperation from their
American counterparts, adding that France would only agree to
military initiatives if they were undertaken under a multilateral

KHARTOUM, Sudan 12 December 2006 Sapa-AP


The African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur said Tuesday it deeply regretted shooting dead two rioting civilians, but that its troops fired in self-defense.

The killings on Sunday in the west Sudanese town of El-Geneina
were the first time that Darfur refugees had died at the hands of the peacekeepers who are mandated to protect them.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday called on the U.N.

Human Rights Council to send an independent team of investigators to look into the escalating atrocities in Darfur.

"It is urgent that we take action to prevent further violations, including by bringing to account those responsible for the numerous crimes that have already been committed," the U.N. chief said in a recorded video address to the rights council's emergency session on Darfur.

Annan's address came as a U.N. official confirmed Tuesday that a new government air force bombing had killed eight members of a family in a North Darfur village.

"This is the second air strike in recent days," said the
official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the
sensitivity of the issue.

Jar al-Naby, a field commander for the rebel group that controls the zone, said government aircraft bombed the village of Hashaba on Monday, destroying one house. Two men, five children and their mother were killed, he said on the telephone.

Spiraling violence has forced more than 200 U.N. and aid workers to pull out in recent weeks, and the U.N. said in a statement Tuesday it had airlifted another seven aid workers from the North Darfur locality of Shangil Tobay a day earlier.

Sunday's riot occurred during the funeral for 30 refugees killed the previous day by the janjaweed, a pro-government militia.

While a U.N. Nations official said three refugees were killed in the riot, AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni said only two had died and that the AU had taken a third refugee with severe wounds to hospital.

"We infinitely regret shooting at the crowd. The AU came to
Darfur to protect civilians, but this was a last recourse in
legitimate defense," Mezni told The Associated Press.

The riot began as a funeral for 30 refugees killed by the
janjaweed on Saturday. Some of the mourners became angry when they saw AU officials observing the funeral. They blamed the AU force for not doing enough to protect them from the janjaweed.

Mezni said a mob hijacked the car of the AU officials, and then attacked and torched an AU police post.

The rioters marched on the AU's regional base in El-Geneina,
where bullets and rocket propelled grenades were fired at the
peacekeepers, Mezni said.

He said no peacekeeper was wounded, but the crowd broke through the base's security perimeter, apparently aiming to steal weapons and assault the military commander.

"At that point, the troops had no other choice but to fire,"

Mezni said.

After the riot, Sudanese police and army deployed around the
base, which houses hundreds of peacekeepers.

In another development, the AU said Tuesday it was trying to
procure the release of two peacekeepers who were kidnapped in their car on Sunday night in the North Darfur capital of El Fasher.

The AU did not identify the suspected kidnapping group. A U.N.

official has said one of the hostages is a Nigerian major.

The AU force was first deployed in June 2004 in Darfur, where
more than three years of fighting have killed at least 200,000
people and displaced 2,5 million others. The conflict has pitted rebels from Darfur's ethnic African population against government forces and the Arab janjaweed militia.

Darfur has become increasingly violent since May when one rebel group and the government signed a peace accord, which the other insurgents rejected as inadequate.

The janjaweed have been accused of widespread atrocities,
including killing and raping civilians and burning their villages.

The government denies backing the janjaweed, but UN and AU
officials have accused government forces of arming the militia and coordinating attacks with them.

The United Nations is trying to replace the underpowered AU
force with 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers, but the government has
rejected this.

N'DJAMENA 12 December 2006 Sapa-AFP


Fresh fighting between government troops and rebels broke out
Tuesday in east Chad, close to the border with Sudan, both sides

"We were attacked by government troops at the start of the
afternoon in the Hadjer Marfain region and the fighting was very
heavy," said the leader of the rebel Union of Forces for Democracy
and Development (UFDD), General Mahamat Nouri.

"Sporadic fighting is still taking place," Nouri added, reached
by satellite telephone. "Chadian soldiers are beginning to flee."

The fighting is the latest episode in a mounting offensive in
recent weeks by rebel groups aiming to topple the government of
Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno.

Another rebel coalition -- the Rally of Democratic Forces (RAFD)
--joined Tuesday's clashes, Nouri said.

The UFDD claimed it pushed back government forces in heavy
fighting, while a government official simply confirmed that
fighting took place.

The two sides have offered dramatically different versions of
casualty tolls in a series of violent confrontations recently.

Both government and rebel forces, for example, claimed victory
during fighting near the eastern town of Biltine Saturday, with
each alleging to have killed several hundred fighters from the
other side.

Since then, government troops have been in hot pursuit of the
rebels, with renewed fighting Monday near the Sudanese border. Once again, both sides offered starkly different accounts of events.

What is clear is that rebels have sharply increased their
attacks in eastern Chad as part of larger unrest that risks
destabilizing central African countries on Sudan's western border.

Both Deby and Central African President Francois Bozize accuse
Sudan of backing rebels in their countries.

GENEVA 13 December 2006 Sapa-AFP


The United Nations Human Rights Council will resume its special
session on Sudan's strife-torn region of Darfur on Wednesday, with
member states still divided despite pleas for unity and urgent
action by Secretary General Kofi Annan and other top UN officials.

The Council had been scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to
send a fresh fact-finding mission to the strife-torn Sudanese

However the debate became mired in controversy as fault lines
re-emerged between Western countries on one hand, and African and Islamic states on the other, over plans to send a mission to

In a further sign of growing international pressure for action
on Darfur, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was reported to have
backed US plans to impose a no-fly zone on the province.

Citing unnamed officials, the Financial Times also said that US
military planners were developing plans for air strikes and a naval
blockade to supplement the no-fly zone.

Annan said Tuesday it was crucial that the 47 member nations in
the Council agree to send a mission to Darfur headed by independent experts.

"I urge you to lose no time in sending a team of independent and
universally respected experts to investigate the latest escalation
of abuses," he said in a recorded message to the council's first
ever session on abuses in Darfur.

Sudan however claimed it was being unfairly targeted, and
criticised the UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour.

"The objective ... is not to protect human rights but to
undermine the dignity and the sovereignty of the weak states," said
the deputy governor of South Darfur, Mustafa Farah.

The United Nations estimates that some 200,000 people have died
and two million have been forced to flee their homes since the
conflict between Khartoum and local rebels in Darfur began in 2003.

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Iraq casts doubt over Darfur options

By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Daniel Dombey in Brussels
December 13 2006 03:43

The crisis in Iraq has left US and British officials wary of waging a further unilateral action in a hostile Muslim country. “You must go to the dance with a partner,” says one Washington official.

But the worsening violence in Sudan’s Darfur region has led the allies to look at various last-ditch military options, including a US naval blockade of Sudan’s Red Sea coast, targeted air strikes, or imposition of a no-fly zone over Darfur. That last option has received Tony Blair’s backing, on the condition that it has UN approval.

Both Mr Blair and President George W. Bush are said to feel a deep commitment to end the killings in Darfur that London labels a “crime against humanity” and Washington calls genocide. Aides describe concerns about their historical legacy hanging over two leaders already weighed down by the debacle in Iraq and a fear of being seen to have allowed a repeat of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

A rare coalition of interests at home would be prepared to back Mr Bush over action on Sudan. Neo-conservatives and liberals, and the American public in general, favour US intervention, though many want concerted international action.

In October, a call for US military strikes was penned by two Clinton administration officials, Susan Rice and Anthony Lake, and a Democrat congressman, Donald Payne, who will soon take over leadership of the House subcommittee on Africa.

The US, they said, should press for a UN resolution to give Sudan an ultimatum to accept unconditional deployment of the UN force within one week or face military consequences, including strikes against airfields and other military assets, and a blockade of Port Sudan to stop oil exports. If the UN balked, then the US should go ahead anyway.

A senior US official declined to comment on specific plans. “There’s a num-ber of options. It depends on how things break down,” he said. The Pentagon was involved in consultations, he added. Bryan Whitman, Pentagon spokesman, said the defence department had done no planning for a Sudan mission.

The preferred option for Washington and London is that Khartoum accept the latest international proposal for a “hybrid” force combining UN troops with the 7,000 hapless peacekeepers of the African Union (AU) already deployed over an area the size of France.

Both Mr Blair and Mr Bush have cited the newly enshrined but vaguely defined UN doctrine of “responsibility to protect” as justification for Darfur action. Washington has already raised the stakes by publicly giving Mr Bashir a January 1 deadline to accept international demands or face “plan B”.

The components of this plan are secret but officials hint that it involves financial sanctions targeted against individuals and corporations, using measures applied with some success against North Korea and Iran to put pressure on the financial sector to freeze accounts and halt business.

The US administration may also put to one side its ideological dislike of the International Criminal Court and supply evidence needed to convict Khartoum’s leadership of war crimes.

British officials hope they could pass future resolutions on Sudan at the UN Security Council with the abstentions of Russia, China and Qatar. If such measures fail, however, the US plans would call for another ad hoc “coalition of the willing” to pursue coercive measures, preferably with UN backing, though China’s veto power in the Security Council would probably block this. China is Sudan’s main oil customer.

“Plans B to F are on the table,” a State Department official said. She was not authorised to speak about possible military intervention, but confirmed that the US wanted to work with France in Chad, where Paris has a small contingent of troops, to help President Idris Deby fend off Sudanese-backed rebels.

French diplomats said there had been no approach yet from Washington about military action and Paris would only envisage military initiatives within a multilateral framework.

Stephen Morrison, Africa expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the idea of military intervention in Sudan was “a fantasy that draws on the neocon vision that got us into Iraq”; US threats carried less weight now, and China would not pull the plug on its oil imports.

The “Iraq syndrome”, as some diplomats call it, plays mainly to Mr Bashir’s advantage. His government is buoyed by anti-western sentiment among Muslim allies, kept afloat by soaring oil revenues and cushioned by diplomatic support from China, its main customer.

As long as they remain bogged down in Iraq, Mr Bashir believes, Mr Bush and Mr Blair are mouthing empty threats. Many in Washington would agree.

• The White House fuelled concerns about its strategy for dealing with Iraq on Tuesday when it delayed a speech by President George W. Bush that would have laid out his “new way forward” for the country, Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said Mr Bush had “decided, frankly” that the speech was “not ready yet” and that it would not be delivered until the new year.

We do not know when, so I can’t give a date, I can’t give you a time, I can’t give you a place.”

Over the past two weeks the White House had sought to convey a sense of urgency on Iraq, choreographing high-profile meetings with Mr Bush and officials from the State Department, the Pentagon and Iraq itself

Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, defended the delay, saying Robert Gates, the incoming secretary of defence, would start work on December 18, “so it’s very important he will have an opportunity to participate in the develop- ment of that strategy”.

Additional reporting by Peggy Hollinger in Paris

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006