Home | News    Tuesday 27 July 2004

Sudan accuses London and Berlin of security threat

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By Nima ElBagir

KHARTOUM, July 26 (Reuters) - Sudan summoned senior British and German diplomats on Monday to protest against what it said were threats to its national security, while a top aid worker warned the world must do more to stop refugees in Darfur dying.

Khartoum’s action followed a weekend in which the United States and Europe stepped up warnings of sanctions unless Sudan stops a conflict in its arid western Darfur region that the United Nations says has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

State Minister for Foreign Relations Najeeb al-Kheir Abdul Wahab, who called in the British and German charges d’affaires separately, denounced a statement by Britain’s top military commander that he could muster 5,000 troops for Darfur.

"(Wahab) expressed the government’s protest at the unfortunate comments made by General Mike Jackson, describing them as threatening to Sudanese national security and a violation of state sovereignty," said a government statement.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the world must act on Darfur and has not ruled out a British military role. Australia says it could send troops as U.N. peacekeepers.

At the meeting with the German diplomat, Wahab repeated previous Sudanese charges that Berlin was allowing rebels in Darfur to launch "hostile activities" from Germany.

ACCUSATIONS FLY

Khartoum says it is making progress over security and aid in Darfur, where rebels accuse the government of backing Arab militias known as Janjaweed in an ethnic cleansing campaign against black Africans. The U.S. Congress brands it genocide.

The United Nations estimates some 30,000 people have been killed since fighting erupted last year.

Rowan Gillies, head of the international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, said the world was acting too slowly and half-heartedly to help what the United Nations estimates are 1.5 million displaced people.

"There is the potential for significant numbers of deaths due to malnutrition or epidemics in the refugee camps where conditions have hardly improved at all despite increased international attention," said Gillies.

He said that on a month-long trip he treated sick and dying children in camps for people driven from their homes.

British-based Oxfam flew water-purifying and sanitation equipment for a camp of 60,000 people in southern Darfur, only the charity’s third plane to reach the remote area.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled to neighbouring Chad, where aid help has also been limited.

The United States and many other countries have demanded oil-producing Sudan disarm the militiamen or face sanctions.

EU URGES U.N. ACTION

The European Union urged the United Nations to consider sanctions on Sudan, although resistance by Russia and China in the Security Council has so far hampered similar U.S. efforts.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had spoken to Russia, China, France, Germany and Pakistan since Saturday in an effort to muster support for a Security Council resolution, said U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

Asked if U.S. patience with Khartoum was running out and that the United States would start to support initiatives for a foreign force, Ereli said: "We’re not at that point yet."

EU foreign ministers called on the United Nations "to pass a resolution, with a view to taking further action, including imposing sanctions, in case the government of Sudan does not immediately fulfil its obligations".

"The threat of sanctions is imminent if they don’t comply," Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said after a meeting of the bloc’s 25 foreign ministers.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will discuss Sudan with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, current head of the African Union, and other African leaders in Ghana on Thursday.

SUDAN HITS BACK AT U.S.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said some 100 Janjaweed members had been arrested.

"We are doing what is right," he said, and accused U.S. politicians of speaking of genocide to woo black American votes for the U.S. presidential election in November.

The African Union said it was still trying to revive stalled peace talks between the government and rebels, and to send ceasefire observers to Darfur, despite delays.

Darfur’s two rebel groups walked out of talks this month when Khartoum refused to disarm the Janjaweed ahead of any face-to-face negotiations.

Each side accuses the other of violating a ceasefire agreed in April.

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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