July 1, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir on Sunday warned against an "Iraqification" of the crisis in Darfur saying he would rather export no oil at all than be forced to accept a humanitarian oil-for-food programme.
- Omer al-Bashir
"We will never accept an oil-for-food programme, even if we have to keep our oil deep in the bowels of the earth," he told journalists, accusing the West of hyping the Darfur crisis precisely because of its interest in Sudan’s oil.
Human Rights Watch has called on the UN Security Council to create a mechanism in Sudan similar to the Iraqi oil-for-food programme set up in 1995 that was aimed at assisting humanitarian needs without allowing Iraq to rebuild its military.
Beshir said that the US — which says genocide is taking place in Darfur — wanted to repeat the mistakes it made in Iraq in Sudan and that current US sanctions against Khartoum would not ease the suffering in the war-ravaged western region.
"The US wants to make mistakes in Sudan in exactly the same way it did in Iraq. They want to commit the same mistakes," said Beshir, who regularly accuses the West of seeking to topple his regime.
The US said in June that the threat of more sanctions against Sudan would only be lifted when Khartoum makes good on its pledge to allow United Nations peacekeepers into Darfur.
But Beshir suggested such threats were counterproductive, asking: "Will these sanctions help Darfur’s displaced leave the camps and find the means to subsist?"
While Beshir has accepted the deployment of a hybrid UN-led peacekeeping force in Darfur, although this has yet to happen, he vowed resistance to any further bid to strengthen the force.
"We will fight against any attempt to impose international or Western forces ... if the West intervenes, we will have the right to resistance," he insisted.
According to UN estimates, at least 200,000 people have died from the combined effect of war and famine since the conflict started in Darfur in February 2003.
Other sources give a much higher toll, but Khartoum disputes the figures, with Beshir insisting that "most of Darfur’s region is safe."
"The situation on the ground in Darfur is improving. Now IDPs (internally displaced persons) are voluntarily returning to their villages," he said.
An under-funded and poorly-equipped African Union force of 7,000 troops in a region roughly the size of France has found itself increasingly overwhelmed and will be beefed up by UN forces.
African countries are expected to contribute more troops to the new force, which is expected to consist of up to 20,000 troops.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which then enlisted the Janjaweed militia to help crush the rebellion.