Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Britain Makes Another Call for Intervention in Sudan

Britain says world must act to stop Sudan freefall

By Opheera McDoom
Monday, June 30, 2008; 2:24 PM

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) - Sudan could tip into "freefall" unless the international community helps to resolve its multiple crises, Britain's minister for Africa said on the sidelines of an African summit on Monday.

A lack of progress towards resolving the 5-1/2-year-old Darfur conflict, fighting in the oil-rich Abyei region claimed by both north and south Sudan, and tension with neighboring Chad were all critical issues, Mark Malloch-Brown told Reuters.

"We've got to find a way to help Sudan and its constituent parts start to work through these problems and solve them, otherwise ... there could be a dangerous tipping point where the country goes into a freefall."

In particular, he said a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, UNAMID, must deploy fast in Sudan's Darfur region to help the efforts of a new joint U.N./AU mediator for Darfur, Burkino Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in Darfur since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the central government of neglect.

"Unless UNAMID deployment rapidly ramps up ... it in a sense removes the critical underpinning and momentum for peace which comes out of improved security," Malloch-Brown said.

Bassole's appointment was officially confirmed by the United Nations on Monday. Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor made it clear that Khartoum had no objections.

"It's okay -- we are happy," he told Reuters. "He's a foreign minister and he has held many ministerial positions and is a military man."

Separately, the top U.S. official on Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said it was unlikely that talks about normalizing relations with the United States would resume before the U.S. elections in November. Washington has Sudan on a list of state sponsors of terrorism and operates economic sanctions against it.

"We were very clear from the outset ... normalization depends on results on the ground and clearly things have not improved in Darfur and things have deteriorated in Abyei," she told reporters on the sidelines of the summit.

Among the terms of Sudan's 2005 north-south was a distribution of power and of the wealth stemming from Sudan's oil output of 500,000 barrels per day.

But at least 89 people died in May in clashes between northern and southern forces in Abyei, close to major oilfields coveted by both sides.

"At this point it doesn't look favorable because they haven't implemented those agreements," Frazer said.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations)

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

Four Russians dead in latest Sudan air crash

KHARTOUM (AFP) - - Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir on Monday sacked the civil aviation boss after a cargo plane crashed and burst into flames in Khartoum in the fourth fatal air accident in two months.

Major General Abu Bakr Jaafar was dismissed by presidential decree after the crash of the Russian-made Ilyushin cargo plane that killed four Russian crew members and narrowly missing homes.

Beshir, who was at the African Union summit in Egypt, also grounded all Ilyushin and Antonov planes and ordered a committee to investigate the run of recent accidents, the state media said.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdel Hafez Abdel Rahim told AFP that he had seen the report on the SUNA state news agency but passed no comment on what he referred to as a "political decision" from the presidential palace.

The Ilyushin operated by the private Ababeel cargo company crashed following takeoff just after 7:00 am (0400 GMT), Abdel Rahim said.

The plane was carrying commodities bound for Sudan's southern capital Juba. It was the second cargo plane crash on the Khartoum-Juba route in three days.

Thick smoke spewed into the sky after the crash. Torn-apart fuselage smouldered across wasteland where foundations were dug for new buildings on the edge of an upmarket residential district.

One witness waiting by the runway to board another flight said the doomed aircraft immediately veered to the left and the left wing clipped the ground.

"The whole plane blew up in a fireball," the witness told AFP by telephone.

The plane appeared to have skidded across the main road to the east of the airport perimeter, ripping out an electricity pole. During rush hour the road would have been packed with traffic but Monday is a public holiday.

SUNA quoted the director of Khartoum airport, Yusif Ibrahim, as attributing the accident to a technical problem.

Nervous security officers guarded the crash scene where an AFP photographer was detained for three hours and had his press accreditation confiscated.

Concerns have long been raised because Khartoum international airport is located in a built-up area, sandwiched between four main roads, wealthy residential areas and close to key installations such as the UN headquarters.

Sudan's aviation record has appeared increasingly hazardous.

On Friday, a cargo plane crashed mid-flight from Khartoum to Juba, killing seven crew members, including one Armenian and four Ukranians.

On June 10, a Sudan Airways Airbus carrying 214 people burst into flames after landing at Khartoum international airport, killing at least 30 people.

Last week, Sudan Airways was granted a last-minute one-month reprieve from the CAA over its flight worthiness after an initial announcement that it had been grounded for not meeting international standards.

In May, south Sudan's defence minister and at least 22 other people were killed in another plane crash.

Five years ago, 115 people were killed when a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 was destroyed in a ball of fire as it attempted to land at Port Sudan after apparently suffering an engine problem soon after takeoff in June 2003.

After that crash, the Khartoum government said the Sudanese air fleet was growing old and Sudan was unable to buy spare parts for its US-made aircraft due to economic sanctions imposed by Washington.

Washington, which has placed Khartoum on a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism, says the sanctions do not prevent the delivery of spare parts for aircraft if they are requested.

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