Home | News    Sunday 11 July 2004

German FM demands that Khartoum disband militia in Darfur

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KHARTOUM, July 11 (AFP) — German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who arrived in Sudan, called for the government in Khartoum to urgently act against Arab militia blamed for a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing in the western region of Darfur.

Before boarding his plane in Germany, Fischer urged Khartoum to "immediately disband the militia" and said those responsible for human rights violations should be held to account.

He said aid agencies should be allowed access to Darfur, where 15 months of conflict have provoked what the United Nations has termed the world’s worst current humanitarian catastrophe.

Fischer told the German media he hoped talks he is due to hold on Monday with his Sudanese counterpart Mustafa Ismael and President Omar al-Beshir would be "discussions with well defined objectives".

He said he wanted to increase the pressure on Khartoum over Darfur, adding that he planned to continue the work begun by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who both visited Sudan earlier this month to discuss the Darfur tragedy.

Powell warned the Sudanese government on Thursday to honour its pledge of immediate action to stop the bloodshed in Darfur or face international sanctions.

More than 10,000 people are estimated to have died in Darfur and at least 1.2 million have been driven from their homes since February 2003, when black African groups revolted against the Arab government in Khartoum.

Pro-government Arab Janjaweed militia retaliated by carrying out what UN officials say is a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the black Africans.

On board Fischer’s aircraft were 3.5 tonnes of emergency medical supplies for Darfur’s refugees. The aid will help care for about 40,000 people for a month and will be distributed by the German Red Cross.

Berlin sent three experts to Sudan on Wednesday to assess possibilities for providing technical aid.

Fischer was being accompanied on his trip by Secretary of State Kerstin Mueller, who has already visited Darfur several times.

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