Home | News    Sunday 1 August 2004

Egypt’s FM: French troops on Sudan’s border not sign of intervention


CAIRO, Aug 01, 2004 (AP) — Egypt’s foreign minister said he did not believe France’s deployment of troops to Chad, where hundreds of thousands have sought refuge from violence in neighboring Sudan, foreshadowed military intervention in the region.

Egypt and other Arabs have looked with suspicion on Western moves regarding Sudan, fearing another Arab state is about to meet Iraq’s fate.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, speaking late Saturday after returning from a one-day visit to Sudan, said: "I don’t think that France’s massing of troops is military intervention. I think it’s providing capabilities in Chad aimed at increasing the ability to help people in Darfur."

"The French side decided to move urgently to help," Aboul Gheit.

France began deploying troops and aid along Chad’s border with Sudan Saturday, a day after the U.N. Security Council passed a U.S.-backed resolution demanding Sudan disarm ethnic Arab militias blamed for atrocities that helped send refugees, mostly ethnic Africans, streaming out of the Western Sudanese region of Darfur.

International aid organizations have accused the Sudanese government of supporting the Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, in a brutal campaign to drive Sudanese citizens of African origin out of Darfur. An estimated 30,000 people have been killed in the 17-month conflict; a million people have been forced to flee their homes; and an estimated 2.2 million people are in urgent need of food, medicine and other basics.

Aboul Gheit did not directly answer a question about whether he believed what was happening in Darfur was ethnic cleansing or genocide, as some aid agencies and the U.S. Congress have concluded.

"There is suffering and armed clashes between tribes and groups that led to the flight of tens of thousands of Sudanese people," he said. "But talking about serious violations of human rights or massacres or other accusations, I don’t think that the issue is what it seems."

Egypt and other Arabs have played down events in Darfur and called on the United States and United Nations to give Khartoum more time to restore calm in Darfur on its own.

Aboul Gheit said he hoped Sudan’s government would "deal positively" with the United Nations and also urged Western powers to understand the situation in Darfur was complex.

Aboul Gheit spoke after briefing President Hosni Mubarak on his visit to Sudan, which included a stop at a displaced persons camp in Darfur. Aboul Gheit said Sudanese officials expressed a desire to work with Egypt, other Arabs, Africans and the entire international community to resolve the Darfur crisis.

Aboul Gheit had said in Khartoum Saturday that a small group of Egyptian military observers were headed to Darfur to serve in the African Union team that is monitoring the cease-fire in the province.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic opposition group, issued a statement Sunday saying that Darfur did not deserve the international attention it has received and had "been exaggerated to find a pretext for foreign intervention ... and to distract attention from what is happening in the Palestinian and Iraqi arenas."

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