Saturday, April 28, 2007

Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi Cautions West About Sudan

Gaddafi cautions West over Darfur

By Salah Sarrar
April 28, 2007

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi cautioned the West on Saturday over involvement in the standoff in Sudan's western Darfur region and restated his opposition to international peacekeepers.

Gaddafi made the remarks as he welcomed international envoys to Libya for talks on Darfur, where four years of fighting between rebels, government forces and Arab Janjaweed militia have killed at least 200,000 people and displaced some 2.5 million, creating one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"My advice to the world, after this conference and finding solutions to the issue, is to ignore the disputing parties if they don't respond to these solutions," Gaddafi told the envoys from the United Nations, African Union (AU), United States and a string of Western and African countries.

"I call on (the world) not to finance them materially and to stop supporting them and not to send international forces," he said as he received the officials in his home town of Sirte.

Gaddafi styles himself as an African nationalist seeking African solutions to the continent's problems without relying on the West. His opposition to international peacekeepers is strongly at odds with the stance of the United States, which blames Sudan for what it says is genocide in Darfur.

Along with Britain, Washington demands Sudan accept a combined AU and United Nations force of more than 20,000 troops and police or face international sanctions that could include a complete arms embargo.

So far Khartoum has agreed to accept just 3,500 U.N. military and police personnel on top of the existing AU force of about 5,000 that is badly overstretched.


After meeting Gaddafi in Sirte, about 310 miles east of Tripoli, delegates returned to a hotel in the capital and began talks there late on Saturday chaired by Libya's Africa minister Ali Treiki.

A Western diplomat said the talks would leave aside the divisive peacekeeping issue and focus on trying to bring together a welter of separate initiatives on Darfur in "a process vigorously led by the AU and the U.N."

Political progress has been made much harder by the fact the Darfur rebels themselves are split. A peace deal in May last year was signed by only one of three rebel factions.

Treiki said a mechanism was needed to first bring together the neighboring countries affected by the conflict -- Sudan, Libya, Chad and Eritrea -- and then the Sudanese factions which had not signed the peace deal.

He said a meeting with the parties that had not signed should happen in the next three weeks, without specifying where.

In his earlier comments, Gaddafi was critical of the rebels.

"I see that the rebel side in the region is the one which endeavors to implicate the world in this issue," he said. "It is not in the interest of the world to intervene in an issue in which one of the parties doesn't want a solution."

The Darfur conflict has spilled over into Chad, which is housing some 200,000 refugees. Libya has been trying to broker a peace deal between Sudan and Chad. The two countries support each other's rebels.

The Tripoli talks, due to end on Sunday, bring together special Darfur envoys from the U.N., AU, the United States, European Union and Britain, and ministers or officials from Sudan, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt, France, Canada, Norway and Russia.

(Writing and additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan)

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