Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sudan News Update: United Nations Security Council Votes to Enter Sudan; Darfur Rebels Split Again; Oil Production Up

U.N. troops will go to war-ravaged Darfur

26,000 troops and police will try to stop attacks on displaced people

The effort is expected to cost $2 billion the first year

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorize up to 26,000 troops and police in an effort to stop attacks on millions of displaced civilians in Sudan's Darfur region.

Expected to cost more than $2 billion in the first year, the combined United Nations-African Union operation aims to quell violence in Darfur, where more than 2.1 million people have been driven into camps and an estimated 200,000 have died over the last four years.

The resolution allows the use of force in self-defense, to ensure freedom of movement for humanitarian workers and to protect civilians under attack.

But the measure, which has been watered down several times, no longer allows the new force to seize and dispose of illegal arms. Now they can only monitor such weapons.

Gone also is a threat of future sanctions, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned on Tuesday that "if any party blocks progress and the killings continue, I and others will redouble our efforts to impose further sanctions."

"The plan for Darfur from now on is to achieve a cease-fire, including an end to aerial bombings of civilians; drive forward peace talks ... and, as peace is established, offer to begin to invest in recovery and reconstruction," he said on a visit to the United Nations.

Specifically, the text authorizes up to 19,555 military personnel and 6,432 civilian police.

The resolution calls on member states to finalize their contributions to the new force, called UNAMID or the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, within 30 days. UNAMID would incorporate the under-equipped and under-financed 7,000 African Union troops now in Darfur.

Rape, looting, murder and government bombardment drove millions from their homes in Darfur, where mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting their arid region.

The rebels have now split into a dozen groups, many fighting each other.

Darfur rebel group JEM splits again ahead of talks

KHARTOUM, July 30 (Reuters) - Darfur's rebel Justice and Equality Movement has split again, a spokesman said on Monday, ahead of a United Nations and African Union meeting to unite the insurgents before peace talks with the Sudanese government.

Nourein Adam Abdel Gaffa, spokesman for JEM's armed wing, said the group was removing Khalil Ibrahim from his leadership position and wanted members of JEM's army to represent the group at the rebel meeting in Tanzania beginning on Aug. 3.

"We are announcing the removal of Khalil Ibrahim as the leader of the movement," he said.

Abdel Gaffa said Ibrahim had breached the laws governing JEM but did not offer details.

However, Abdel Gaffa is allied with JEM chief of staff Abdallah Abanda Abakr who Ibrahim removed from his position earlier this month, a move Abakr and other commanders rejected.

JEM spokesman Ahmed Adam told Reuters from London that Ibrahim had not been removed and would represent JEM in the Arusha talks in August.

"This is not true. Still Khalil is the chairman of JEM," he said, adding that JEM was trying to resolve any outstanding problems, including confusion over Abakr's role.

The split announced by JEM's armed wing is a blow to the Aug. 3-5 Arusha meeting ahead of peace talks planned by U.N. Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim.

One of the biggest obstacles to restarting Darfur peace talks to end the fighting is rebel divisions.

Since a peace deal last year signed by only one of three rebel negotiating factions, the non-signatory factions split into more than a dozen groups.

JEM, which along with the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), was involved in the 2006 Nigeria talks that produced the peace agreement, is often considered a smaller rebel group.

Sudan expert Eric Reeves said, although JEM had few troops on the ground, they could act as a spoiler to any peace agreement if not represented at the talks.

Abdel Gaffa said on Monday his group was "not committed to any ceasefire agreement".

U.S. envoy Andrew Natsios told reporters in New York that Salim and Eliasson hoped to begin Darfur peace talks in September, although the envoys themselves have been careful not to set a start date.

"By the end of August Jan Eliasson said, and Salim Salim, that they will issue invitations to a formal conference that they expect will begin in September," Natsios said.

He added that broader society in Darfur needed to be included in the talks process to ensure whatever is agreed receives support on the ground.

Last year's unpopular peace deal is rejected by the 2.5 million Darfuris who fled their homes to camps in Darfur and in neighbouring Chad. The African Union, which mediated the deal, was criticised for not publicising it quickly enough.

Official: Nearly half of displaced people in Darfur return home

KHARTOUM, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Sudanese General Commissioner of Humanitarian Aid Hasabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman announced on Saturday that 45 percent of displaced people in the western Sudanese region of Darfur had returned to their villages.

He told a press conference that the number of returnees in North Darfur State reached 81,762 households, in West Darfur State,78,846 and in South Darfur State, 76,841.

Describing the humanitarian situation in Darfur as stable, the Sudanese official noted that his government undertook the rebuilding of 200 villages in Darfur.

Hasabo indicated that a number of factors contributed to the voluntary repatriation of displaced people, including tribal reconciliation and the efforts exerted by national and international organizations and facilities by the government.

Armed conflicts erupted in Darfur in February 2003, leading to the displacement of some 1 million people.

A peace agreement signed by the Sudanese government and a main rebel faction in May 2006 stipulates that the displaced people should be helped to return to their homelands.

Sudan oil exports flourish, reaching 425,000 bpd

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan is exporting around 425,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and 30,000 tonnes a month of petroleum products, a senior oil ministry official said yesterday.

The official also said deepened US sanctions earlier this year had not hurt Sudanese exports, except in administrative banking procedures.

"We produce a minimum of about 300,000 bpd of Nile Blend and the local refinery uses about 75,000 of that for internal consumption," the official, who declined to be named, said.

"Of Dar Blend we produce about 200,000 bpd, all of it for exports," he added.

Sweet Nile Blend is easier to sell and refine than the acidic Dar Blend.

Rights activists have pressured Indian, Malaysian and Chinese companies, the major investors in Sudanese oil.

The activists say revenues from Sudan's oil industry fund military operations in Sudan's western Darfur region where international experts estimate 200,000 were killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in four years of revolt.

The oil ministry official said around 40,000 bpd of Al Fula crude is also produced from Block 6 operated 95 per cent by China's CNPC. That goes entirely to the local refinery for domestic consumption.

The official added some 30,000 tonnes a month of petroleum products were exported.

"If production increases we have the capacity to export more," he said.

Two marine export terminals on Sudan's east coast can store up to 4m barrels of Nile Blend and 3 millon of Dar Blend.

Sudan has four oil refineries, with a total capacity of 142,000 bpd.

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