Home | News    Friday 20 February 2004

France may send peacekeeping force to Sudan

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KHARTOUM, Feb 20, 2004 (dpa) — France will consider sending a peacekeeping force to Sudan pending the signing of a peace agreement and the approval of the international community, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in Khartoum Friday.

"Of course we will consider sending a force to Sudan within the domain of a peacekeeping mission" he told reporters after closed-door talks with his Sudanese counterpart Mustafa Osman Ismael.

France had discussed with other members of the international community the best possible ways of upholding peace in Sudan and was awaiting further guarantees, de Villepin added.

Ismael told reporters that the discussion had focused on the peace process in Sudan and security in the Middle East.

The Sudanese minister said he also expected France to use its good relations with neighbouring Chad to play a positive role in resolving the humanitarian crisis faced by Sudanese refugees in the country.

De Villepin’s visit was dominated by the worsening situation in western Sudan caused by ethnic unrest in the Darfur region.

Government-loyal militia there are battling groups of rebels calling for more political influence. More than 600,000 refugees have fled fighting, some 100,000 of whom have crossed into Chad.

The dispute does not affect the peace talks between the government and non-Moslem rebels in the south, which are due to resume next Tuesday.

"I have discussed with Sudanese authorities the situation in Darfur," de Villepin said, adding that he had also discussed the crisis with President of Chad Idriss Deby in Ndjamena.

De Villepin also said he had discussed the Darfur conflict with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and others at the recent European Union humanitarian summit.

The French government has pledged to provide Sudan with 30 million euros (37.7 million dollars) in humanitarian aid.

De Villepin also expressed his support for a Sudanese government plan to hold a national conference aimed at resolving the Darfur issue, which it says will take place later in the month.

The French government would "undoubtedly" participate in the conference and will extend all necessary help to the people of Darfur, he said.

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