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Defense minister slams US plan to support South Sudan army

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April 1, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese minister of Defense criticized statements by US officials last week saying Washington would build a strong army in southern Sudan to pressurize Khartoum to accept the deployment of international peacekeepers in Darfur region.

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Abdelrahim M. Hussein

The minister of Defense, Lt-Gen Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, has said there is nothing new in the US threat to tip the military balance in favour of the south. He pointed out that Washington had continued to give all means of military and moral support to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) since its inception.

However, he said the announcement of this latest threat "revealed US insincerity towards the peace achieved through agreements in the south, eastern Sudan and Darfur."

The United States will impose tough new measures against Sudan, to try to force Sudan to accept international forces in Darfur region. One of these measures is to help the Southern Sudan government to build a strong force.

"If he (Bashir) is faced with a credible force in the south, he will start to relook at how his forces are dispersed and where his risks are," a defense official told Reuters on Thursday March 29.

In statements to the Arabic language Al-Sahafah on Sunday, the minister said "USA has always been hostile towards us because Washington does not want Sudan to be stable". He further added that the latest threat was contrary to US administration efforts and its repeated announcements of support for peace efforts.

The minister asked what Washington’s humanitarian stance towards the citizens of Darfur had to do with signaling its support for the SPLA? He said "this would not resolve the humanitarian situation in Darfur but in fact could lead to discord and inevitably to a new humanitarian disaster."

Hussein said the aim of this US move "could under no circumstances be humanitarian but was an attempt to put pressure on the government to accept deployment of international troops in order to implement US agendas. If these troops could have resolved the problem we would not have hesitated to accept them but they will definitely only complicate the crisis and aggravate it driving the country and the region into a sea of chaos," the minister added.

The minister further pointed out to what was going on in Iraq where he said hundreds of thousands of troops with all their weapons and supplies had failed to reinstate security and stability. Moreover, he said the number of victims in a week in Iraq were the equivalent to the number of victims of the problem of Darfur over recent years.

The minister said if Washington cared about Sudan "it should, as it promised, put pressure on those who rejected the Abuja agreement." "It not only broke its promise but has gone to the extent of providing moral and political support to the rebel movements," the minister added and explained that rebels were the reason for continuing violations in Darfur.

The minister stressed that the government stood by its position calling for the AU to head all operations in Darfur. "The government does not object to the UN having a role in providing technical and logistic support to the African troops and for their experts to work under the leadership of the AU as observer troops," he said.

The United States had threatened an unspecified "Plan B" by Jan. 1 if Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir did not agree to a U.N./African Union force in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003 in what Washington says is this century’s first genocide.

That deadline passed but it was Bashir’s comments that he would not accept a hybrid force that pushed the administration to roll out "Plan B," senior officials said.

(ST)

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