Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sudan Taunts Outgoing US Secretary of State

Sudan taunts outgoing US Secretary of State

Tuesday 23 December 2008

December 22, 2008 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman referred tauntingly to a recent television appearance by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which she expressed regret that the U.S. had not done more to end the conflict in Darfur, the westernmost region of Sudan.

Ambassador Ali Al-Sadig, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, responded to Rice’s interview on Sunday with the MSNBC television programme “Meet the Press.”

The emergency in Darfur, which Rice designated a genocide, will soon enter its sixth year. Experts estimate that some 300,000 people died in the conflict and 2.7 million are still displaced, most of whom are concentrated into massive camps in Darfur or neighbouring eastern Chad.

Rice, replying to a question about the limits of American power, had said “one of the real regrets I’ve had is that we haven’t been able to do something about Sudan.”

She called the lives of people in Darfur “horrible” and said that there is a “horrible tragedy that is unfolding there.”

In response, Sadig said that Sudan shares with the U.S. Secretary of State in her regrets on the inability and failure of the United States to contribute to solving the Darfur issue. He continued, "our regret goes for the inability of a major country to assist the African Union and the United Nations to deploy troops in Darfur,” referring to the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping mission, which is tasked with protecting civilians from government-backed militias and other threats.

Despite the apparent common ground between the two diplomats’ statements, Rice had actually pointed to several areas in which the U.S. did contribute to mitigating the Darfur conflict. Referring to measures that the government of Sudan initially opposed, Rice noted, “We’ve been able to do a lot about the humanitarian situation. We’ve even been able to support getting some peacekeepers onto the ground; and where there are peacekeepers, there’s less violence. But we could’ve done so much more.”

Yet Sadig added, "Condoleezza Rice and the administration were capable of doing a lot to settle the Darfur problem but unfortunately they did not do it."

The Sudanese diplomat went on to blame the United States for failing to pressure Darfur rebel movements to come to terms with the government, though the U.S. did in fact pressure the rebels during negotiations in Nigeria in 2006.

These efforts resulted in one main rebel leader making peace with the government, but the top U.S. envoy to Sudan said last week in Washington that the 2006 agreement actually resulted in greater conflict in Darfur and the senior U.S. diplomat in Khartoum told Sudan Tribune last month that “the majority of the agreement has not been implemented.”

Rice’s main point was that the U.S. had not adequately exercised its diplomatic influence with other countries in order to pressure Khartoum: “I think we’ve done a lot unilaterally, but we could’ve done a lot more if the international community were better mobilized.”

Washington’s frustration with the Sudanese regime resulted in moves to defeat Sudan’s diplomatic efforts in the UN Security Council to block the International Criminal Court’s investigation of President Omer Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the court prosecutor on ten counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a bid for more cooperation from the Sudanese government, President George W. Bush said Dec. 10, “it’s very important for President Bashir of Sudan to know that he cannot escape accountability; that if he so choose, he could change people’s lives, the condition of people’s lives very quickly.”

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