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Sudan rejects JEM conditional withdrawal from Darfur flashpoint town

February 3, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan has rejected an offer by a rebel group to pull its troops out of south Darfur flashpoint town saying the army will take it in the appropriate time.

Fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) riding in the back of an armoured vehicle (AFP)

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said it would withdraw its troops from Muhageriya provided that the disputed town be turned a demilitarized area under the control of the hybrid peacekeeping force and Sudanese army and Minni Minnawi fighters also must evacuate the location.

JEM chairman, Khalil Ibrahim, said he issued the order of conditional withdrawal from Muhajaria to ensure the safety of civilians and in a positive response to "kind appeals" of the government of the United States of America and (Ban) Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

But Ali Sadiq, the spokesperson of the foreign ministry rejected immediately the offer of the rebel movement saying no room for conditions from JEM. He pledged that the Sudanese army would take the town in the right time.

Also Mahdi Mandour, the secretary for political relations at the ruling National Congress Party told reporters in Khartoum today that Sudan will not abandon its sovereignty or its responsibility to protect its citizens and will force the rebels to leave the town, if they did not withdraw their troops in a timely manner.

The head of the UNAMID Rodolphe Adada, is scheduled to meet JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim tomorrow to discuss the issue of Muhageriya with him. Also the joint chief mediator, Djibril Bassolé is travel to eastern Chad with Adada.

Speaking from Darfur, Ahmed Hussein Adam, the spokesperson of the rebel group, said that JEM troops are located now out the flashpoint town.

The rebel group seized Muhageriya, 80 km from Nyala, the capital of South Darfur on 15 January from Minni Minnawi group that signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government in May 2006.

The peacekeeping mission said 30 people at least had been killed and thousands fled the fighting between the government troops and the rebels. The UNAMID also has decided to maintain its 190 troops in the town to protect the civilians and the IDPs despite a request by the Sudanese government to evacuate the area.

The UNAMID says civilians are still gathered outside its camp seeking refuge.

Sudanese government demanded on Sunday that UNAMID peacekeepers in Darfur leave the town, warning that its forces planned to launch an operation to retake the town.

(ST)