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Taha urges UN members to relieve Sudan of it’s external debts

September 27, 2010 (NEW YORK) – Sudan’s Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha has implored members of the UN’s General Assembly to waive Sudan’s external debts and demanded that the UN withdraws the case of Darfur crimes from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Sudan’s Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha addresses the 65th General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 27, 2010. (Getty)

In his address before the 65th session of the UN’s General Assembly in New York yesterday, Taha said that relieving Sudan’s debts will “eliminate many doubts” surrounding a referendum vote due in January 2011 on south Sudan’s full independence. Taha also warned that the ICC’s involvement in Darfur poses “a direct threat” to the prospect of peace in the region.

Sudan faces possible breakup as it approaches a crucial referendum vote on the full independence of its already semi-autonomous region of south Sudan in January 2011. Delays in preparations for the plebiscite as well as little progress over post-referendum issues have recently catapulted Sudan to the forefront of international agendas.

"From this rostrum we call for the forgiving of the debts of Sudan according to the same standards applied to the least developed countries," Taha said.

Sudan has long complained that political discord with the West has prevented it from joining the debt relief program known as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).

HIPC is a program that was initiated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in 1996 to provide insolvent countries with debt relief and low-interest loans to cancel or reduce external debt repayments to sustainable levels.

The IMF puts Sudan’s external debts at about $35.7 billion, of which less than half is the original amount borrowed and the rest is divided between interest and late payment penalties. According to IMF, the figure is projected to reach $37.8 billion in 2010.

Taha further urged UN state members to support Sudan’s unity and monitor the referendum. Many analysts believe that south Sudan’s referendum is likely to split Africa’s largest country in two.

Taha did not omit to fulminate against the ICC, describing it as a tool to break the will of third world nations and “a direct threat” to peace in the region. He demanded that the UN withdraws Darfur case from the ICC and remits it to the Sudanese judiciary.

Darfur region sprang from oblivion in 2003 when rebels belonging mostly to African ethnicities in the region took up arms against the central government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalizing the region.

An abusive counterinsurgency by the Khartoum government triggered one of the worst humanitarian situations in recent history. The UN estimates that the conflict killed 300.000 people and driven more than 2 millions away from their homes into refugee camps.

The UN Security Council referred the case of Darfur to the ICC which charged Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed during the seven-year conflict.

(ST)