Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sudan in Fresh Bid to Chair African Union


Sudan will seek to head the African Union during the continental body's upcoming summit at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, a Sudanese official said.

Sudan's two previous bids for the AU's rotating presidency have been unsuccessful due to reservations over Khartoum's rights record in the western region of Darfur, but the official said the fighting had subsided.

"It is obviously our turn to chair the AU. The situation in Darfur has improved, so there is no more obstacles to that," said the official, who is a delegate to the three-day summit that kicks off on January 31.

"We'll have discussions among the eastern region countries. If they refuse they'll have to explain why and give us good reasons and to convince us," he added.

However, foreign ministers meeting ahead of the summit have still expressed reservations about Sudan's plans to take over from Ghana, which currently holds the chair that rotates yearly among the AU's 53 members.

"This will not help discussions. This candidature tends to take people aback when the consensus seems to be on Tanzania to succeed Ghana," an AU Commission official told AFP.

Although Sudan has accepted United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur, the mission has faced reticence from the Khartoum government.

The mission, the UN's largest, is set eventually to consist of
20,000 troops and 6,000 police and civilian personnel, but only around 9,000 troops and police are currently in place.

At least 200,000 people have died and more than two million have fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Sudan's Arab-dominated regime in February 2003.

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