Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sudan Rejects US Demands To Allow Western Intervention in Darfur

Sudan rejects Rice demands on Darfur force

DEAD SEA, Jordan, Dec 1 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice strongly urged Sudan on Friday to accept a
"hybrid" international force for Darfur but was told the African Union could do the job, a senior Sudanese official said.

Sudanese minister of state for foreign affairs al-Samani
al-Wasiyla met Rice on the sidelines of a conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan to promote democracy and development in the Middle East.

"I asked that we should work together and she said she would
work together but only on the condition that we accept a hybrid (force)," Wasiyla told Reuters after the meeting.

"We know as Africans what we need."

The United States and its allies have been pushing hard for
a United Nations force to go into Sudan's troubled western
Darfur region and finally offered a joint U.N.-African Union
(AU) force which Sudan initially appeared to accept but later

A U.S. official travelling with Rice said Washington's top
diplomat "was very direct" in the meeting about the need for
Sudan to accept a hybrid force.

"The secretary said we are all in favour of broadening the
peace but the issue here is the protection of civilians," the
official, who declined to be identified, said.

"We are obviously worried about a humanitarian catastrophe.
We need to protect against that."

The African Union on Thursday extended the mandate of its
under-funded peacekeeping force in Darfur for six months.

The authorisation of about 7,000 AU troops in the vast
desert region had been due to expire at the end of the year.

Experts estimate that 200,000 people have been killed and
2.5 million uprooted in nearly four years by the violence, which the U.S. government has labelled genocide.


Wasiyla said a hybrid force would complicate issues on the
ground. Sudan was prepared to accept U.N. technical help in
Darfur but not troops, he added.

"We want to give it (the peacekeeping role) to the African
Union. They have the experience," Wasiyla said.

He also urged the United States to improve relations with
Sudan, which he said would send a positive message and encourage a "peace spirit".

"Anger will not solve the problem," Wasiyla said.

Washington's special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, last
month set a deadline of Jan. 1 for Khartoum to make progress on Darfur or have the United States and others resort to what he called "Plan B."

Warning that time was running out, Natsios declined to say
what Plan B comprised, but he made clear Khartoum must accept a joint U.N./African Union force in Darfur by Jan. 1 or a tougher line would be taken against Sudan's government.

The United States has notably held back on threatening more
punitive measures against Sudan in the hope it will allow
international troops into Darfur.

But a forced military intervention is very remote and any
punitive measures after Jan. 1 would probably be economic or
diplomatic in nature.

Sudan welcomes AU decision to extend peacekeeping mission in Darfur

KHARTOUM, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Sudanese government on Friday welcomed a decision by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) to extend the mandate of AU troops in Sudan's western region of Darfur for another six months until June 31 next year.

"The decision supports the government's firm position calling for a continuous stay of the African troops in Darfur rather than transferring their peacekeeping mission to an international force subordinate to the United Nations," Presidential Adviser Majzoubal-Khalifa told reporters.

He added that "this decision comes on the right path of completing the mission of the African Union until the Darfur Peace Agreement is comprehensively implemented with a free African will."

Reiterating Khartoum's refusal of deploying international peacekeepers in Darfur, al-Khalifa stressed AU ability of resolving the Darfur problem with the cooperation of the Sudanese government.

The Sudanese government "is always exerting efforts to realize the peace in all parts of the country," he added.

The AU Peace and Security Council concluded its summit meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday evening by approving a package of proposals put forward by the Sudanese delegation under President Omer al-Bashir, calling for an extension of the pan-African body's peacekeeping mandate in Darfur.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Aug. 31 calling for the deployment of more than 20,000 international peacekeepers to replace the 7,800 AU force in Darfur, which suffers the lack of funds, equipment and experience.

The Sudanese government has rejected the mission transfer, saying it was a violation of Sudan's sovereignty and an effort by the West to colonize the African oil producing country.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan put forward recently a proposal of deploying a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, but the proposal has also been turned down by Khartoum as "another version" of the UN deployment plan.

However, Annan said on Nov. 16 that Sudan had agreed "in principle" to the deployment of a "hybrid" UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur.

The Thursday Abuja meeting reportedly agreed that the AU force commander would be jointly appointed by the head of the AU Commission and the UN secretary general.

Darfur death toll subject of debate

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Dec 1 (AP) — As violence in Darfur escalates, a debate is growing over how many people have died in what officials call the world's worst humanitarian crisis. A U.N. agency's survey cites at least 200,000 deaths, but other studies say the death toll could be closer to 400,000 or more.

Sudan's government, however, contends the toll is inflated and fewer people have died.

The dispute occurs in part because, ever since fighting began in early 2003, humanitarian workers have had limited and perilous access to Darfur.

Overall, the U.N. says 4 million people in Darfur are in desperate need of aid — nearly two-thirds of the estimated Darfur population of 6.5 million. An estimated 2.5 million live in refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad, while others inhabit remote villages, the U.N. says.

The last official, independent mortality survey for Darfur was published in March 2005. Based on data collected in refugee camps in Darfur, the World Health Organization estimated that 10,000 of these refugees died each month between the end of 2003 and October 2004. By March 2005, when the survey was released, the total number had risen to 200,000 deaths, the WHO later estimated.

The figures have not been thoroughly updated since. Yet fighting has worsened, and that has led some researchers and human-rights advocates to contend that the estimate is too low. They say the violence has continued at the same or greater level each month since March 2005, meaning total deaths could be as high as 400,000.

Government attacks in the past month have chased at least 60,000 from their homes, said Ramesh Rajasingham, the head of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, and dozens of villages have been razed.

U.N. officials still usually use the 200,000 number. The Associated Press also uses the figure of at least 200,000 dead, based on the WHO survey.

For its part, Sudan's government in Khartoum says death tolls have been vastly inflated.

This week, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said only 9,000 had died. "I challenge anybody to prove differently," he said.

A survey by the Washington-based and State Department-funded Center for International Justice, which conducted interviews with Darfur refugees in Chad in August 2004 found 61 percent of those interviewed reported witnessing the killing of a family member. The survey combined that percentage with the number of refugees in Chad to reach a total of 200,000 dead.

Because the WHO study did not survey refugees in Chad and did not count many violent deaths, the report argues the 200,000 estimated dead among refugee families in Chad should be added to the WHO's toll of 200,000 dead inside Darfur camps to reach a total of 400,000 deaths.

But not all researchers accept the methodology, calling the extrapolation method faulty.

Southern Militias threaten south Sudan peace deal

KHARTOUM, Dec 1, 2006 (AFP) - Militias operating outside the legal armed forces of north and south Sudan pose a major threat to a peace deal that ended 21 years of civil war in Africa's biggest country, commentators said on Friday.

Their assessment followed clashes between one such militia and southern government forces in which around 100 people died in the city of Malakal, some 700 kilometres (435 miles) south of Khartoum.

"It was a mine left over by the peace agreement which ended up by exploding," said the independent daily Al-Sudani, referring to the peace agreement reached in 2005 between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Under the accord, the old civil war militias were supposed to choose to join either the official forces of the northern government or the autonomous southern administration.

Yasser Said Arman, a senior official in the southern government, warning about the presence of unaffiliated militias in the south, told reporters: "If this question is not resolved it threatens to lead to the collapse of security arrangements" between southerners and northerners.

According to the official, the peace deal and the provisional constitution adopted after it was signed left the militias with no choice other than "to integrate totally in the forces of the north or south."

The signing resulted in a national unity government with the SPLM retaining control of south Sudan but integrating some joint units in Khartoum.

Officials in Khartoum said the fighting earlier in the week, which lasted for three days and also wounded many combatants and civilians, was caused by a militia which had not been totally integrated into the regular northern forces.

The sources said the fighting had been provoked by elements of a militia called the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), a southern movement backed by Khartoum, led by Gabriel Tanginya.

Tanginya has the rank of general in the northern army but has not integrated his forces into the regular force.

Khartoum Monitor journalist Alfred Taban said: "When his former boss Paulino Matip joined the southern forces early this year, General Tanginya did not follow him.

"If the peace accord had been correctly applied, Gabriel Tanginya and all his men should have been totally integrated into the Sudanese army ... but he was, on the contrary, authorised to keep his men and weapons."

Taban said the warlord had political ambitions and wanted to become the head of Fangak locality where he had recently ousted the southern leader Maluit Wic.

According to the Khartoum Monitor on Thursday, the violence erupted when militiamen loyal to Tanginya killed an SPLM policeman.

After being hunted down by SPLM forces, the gunmen sought refuge in an army base, the newspaper said, adding that wider fighting broke out after the regular army refused to hand over Tanginya's men.

There are no accurate figures on the number of rogue militias or their strength but several incidents in Khartoum and the surrounding region -- like the recent murder of five policemen -- have been blamed on armed southern elements.

Southern Sudan to use oil money on agriculture: official

KHARTOUM, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Southern Sudan would channel its oil revenue into agriculture and infrastructure development, a top priority it faces after emerging from prolonged civil war, Sudanese officials said here on Thursday.

"We have to use our oil money to oil our agriculture," said Barnaba Benjamin, the minister of regional cooperation in the government of Southern Sudan, which is rich in oil.

Benjamin said oil industry in Sudan was mainly participated by Asian countries including China, Malaysia and India.

Benjamin made the remarks on behalf of the President of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is also the first vice president of the Republic of Sudan.

Kiir was visiting South Africa to discuss post-war construction of Southern Sudan but had to cut it short due to renewed clashes in the region, according to the SAPA news agency.

Benjamin said Sudan would focus on developing rural areas to avoid the overcrowding caused by rapid urbanization in other parts of Africa.

While the region was plagued by wars and underdevelopment, Benjamin said it had "enormous resources" and agricultural potential.

"We must make sure that the person in the rural area is engaged in the development of our country," he said.

The Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south signed the power-sharing Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January last year, putting an end to the 21-year civil war in south Sudan. Kiir, chairman of the SPLM, became the first vice president of Sudan seven months later.

The agreement allowed a referendum to be carried out in the south in 2011 to decide whether to keep the unity of the country or announce an independence of the region.

Benjamin said the CPA now needed to be implemented because it did not merely mean a cessation of hostilities, but had to provide infrastructure, food security, water and education.

He also pleaded for South African investment in Sudan, saying the country's investment laws were "very liberal".

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