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Sudan and neighbours agree not to support rebels

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Feb 15, 2007 (CANNES) — The leaders of Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic met on Thursday and declared they would not back rebels attacking each other’s territory — repeating a pledge that has failed to stop fighting in the past.

Violence in Sudan’s Darfur province has spilled over into the neighbouring states, which accuse Sudan of supporting rebels launching cross-border attacks, exacerbating ethnic frictions and displacing tens of thousands of people.

"There is a commitment in this agreement that each country will respect the sovereignty of the other countries and no country will support any rebellion within its territory," Sudan’s Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters.

The deal, reached on the sidelines of a French-African summit in the seaside resort of Cannes, was signed late on Thursday. Its main provision repeated a previous pledge.

"We reiterate our commitment to respect sovereignties and to not support armed movements," the agreement said, adding that that was part of a deal struck in Tripoli last February.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Chad’s President Idriss Deby and Central African Republic President Francois Bozize attended the talks, as did Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and African Union chairman John Kufuor.

They and the other heads of state at the meeting, the presidents of France, Gabon and Congo, signed the statement.

Kufuor said the three neighbouring states might be ready to accept a new proposal that a joint African Union and U.N. force police the borders between them.

"They seem to be ready to accept a beefed-up force from the African Union and the United Nations to take control of the borders among them," he told reporters.

EARLY DAYS

The U.N. Security Council has proposed sending peacekeepers to secure Darfur’s border area outside Sudan, and the council has discussed a proposal to deploy a mission in eastern Chad, which borders Darfur.

Asked if Sudan had fully accepted the joint force, however, Kufuor said: "You wait. It’s early days yet."

In their deal, dubbed the ’Cannes statement’, the states backed the creation of "active consultation bodies" between the three countries and said they supported the continuation of the United Nations’ and African Union’s "engagement".

The United Nations has approved a separate three-phased deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur to relieve and support the 7,000-strong African Union mission there.

The first phase, involving a small number of U.N. military and civilians, has been completed but Khartoum has still not approved the second phase, which involves about 3,000 U.N. soldiers, police and staff.

The United Nations ultimately wants 17,000 troops in Darfur but cannot send them in without Khartoum’s approval.

Experts say 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2.5 million others driven from their homes.

Before the start of the meeting, Chad lambasted Khartoum.

"This same meeting is useless because it is aimed at distracting international public opinion and moving it away from the real problem, which is that Sudan is attacking Chad. We are not in Cannes to entertain the crowd," Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-Mi told Reuters.

(Reuters)

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