Home | News    Tuesday 29 August 2006

Sudan ignores US pressure to accept UN troops

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Aug 28, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan ignored U.S. pressure to accept U.N. troops in Darfur, snubbing Washington’s top diplomat on Africa on Monday and boycotting a critical U.N. Security Council debate on quelling violence in Sudan’s west.

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Members of the Sudanese Popular Defence Forces, hold knifes and guns while another carries a banner with Arabic writing reading ’Death to America’ during a demonstration, in Kartoum, Sudan, Wednesday, March 8, 2006. (AP)

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer in Khartoum to deliver a strong message to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that he must accept U.N. troops was forced to extend her stay another day to try to get an audience with Bashir.

Frazer was greeted by an angry crowd telling her to go home on her arrival in Khartoum on Saturday. Her meetings with Sudanese officials since then have been described by one Foreign Ministry official as "just protocol meetings nothing else".

"She is still hopeful and we are still hopeful that she will meet President Bashir," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The U.N. began a closed-door Security Council meeting in New York on Monday to discuss a U.S. and British sponsored draft resolution to deploy around 20,000 troops and police to Darfur.

But U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, said Sudan had decided to boycott the meeting.

Bashir, whose government has consistently rejected U.N. forces in western Sudan, calls the resolution an attempt at Western colonialism.

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland warned the Security Council that Darfur was on the brink of a fresh humanitarian disaster threatening "massive loss of life."

"Insecurity is at its highest levels since 2004, (humanitarian) access at its lowest levels since that date and we may well be on the brink of a return to all-out war," Egeland told the council, according to a text of his remarks.

Without safer conditions for aid workers, greater access to those in need and an end to the violence, the international humanitarian operation could collapse, threatening hundreds of thousands of deaths, he said.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and 2.5 million forced to find shelter in miserable camps during 3-1/2 years of fighting in Darfur. Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms accusing central government of marginalising the remote west.

Politicians say Khartoum fears U.N. troops would be used to arrest any officials likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

NEW OFFENSIVE?

But rights groups say there are also indications Sudan may not want international forces in Darfur because it is not prepared to end its military operation there.

Amnesty International, in a statement on Monday, supported U.S. claims the Sudanese government was preparing a new offensive in Darfur against some rebel factions who did not sign a May peace deal.

"Eyewitnesses in el-Fasher in North Darfur are telling us that Sudanese government military flights are flying in troops and arms on a daily basis," said Kate Gilmore, Amnesty International’s executive deputy secretary general.

While Britain says it hopes the U.N. Security Council resolution will be adopted by the end of August, the United Nations said it cannot deploy unless Khartoum agrees.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch blamed China, Russia and Qatar for not doing enough to pressure Sudan to accept U.N. troops.

"Rape, murder and forced displacement continue in Darfur, in large part because Russia, China, Qatar and others have protected Khartoum from tough measures by the Security Council," said Human Rights Watch Africa Director Peter Takirambudde.

Khartoum submitted a plan to the Security Council which would send 10,500 more government troops to Darfur to stop the violence instead of a U.N. force.

Sudanese Islamist leaders have said they will take up arms to expel any U.N. forces in Darfur and even turn against the government if it accepts international troops.

Those statements echo comments by Osama bin Laden, hosted by Sudan in the 1990s, who has said al Qaeda would fight in Darfur if U.N. troops were deployed.

Around 7,000 African Union troops are struggling to monitor a shaky truce in Darfur, but short of cash and capabilities they have been unable to stem the violence.

(Reuters)

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