SUDAN WATCH: British Government's policy on Sudan is to work with GoS and AU to resolve this crisis

Thursday, August 26, 2004

British Government's policy on Sudan is to work with GoS and AU to resolve this crisis

The British Government's policy is to work with the Government of Sudan and the African Union to resolve this crisis. It says there has to be a political solution to the crisis and the Government of Sudan has to be part of that.

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited Khartoum and indicated that Britain was ready to help finance a greatly enlarged African Union force of as many as 1,000 observers and 3,000 troops to monitor the humanitarian crisis.

"The government of Sudan may need more assistance from the AU, and it’s our job to facilitate it," said Mr Straw. He said he had spoken to the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and the Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, over the weekend and told them "we were ready to provide further military facilitation and anything else they wanted".

But Sudan rejected an offer of African troops to disarm rebels in Darfur as peace talks began in Nigeria, insisting it was capable of neutralising both pro-government and rebel militias. Rebels, in turn, said they would not accept disarmament by Sudanese forces to end the 18-month-old conflict.

The Nigerian president had made the proposal ahead of the talks in Abuja, arguing that Sudanese forces were incapable of disarming the rebels. He said on AU troops were needed because Sudan's forces were incapable of disarming the rebels without further bloodshed. AU troops could do this, he said, while Khartoum disarmed the Janjaweed militia.

'I don't think there is a need for this,' Mazjoub al-Khalifa, Sudan's agriculture minister and top negotiator, said before peace talks began on Monday with two Darfur rebel groups. 'Simultaneously we will disarm the rebel movements, the Janjaweed and other militia.'

That plan was swiftly dismissed by a top rebel official. 'There is no way we can let our enemies disarm us. They are still killing us and bombing us,' said Abubakar Hamid Nour, coordinator of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)."

During a joint news conference on Monday with Sudan's foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, following extended discussions between the two men, Mr Straw stressed "We have absolutely no plans to put in contingents of British troops." "What we have done is to provide military expertise to the African Union," he added.

The UK has provided £2m to support a limited African Union peace mission to Darfur and has pledged a further £750,000 for commercial charter planes to transport Nigerian troops to Darfur. The first Nigerian troops are expected to arrive, joining a contingent of Rwandan troops, later this week.
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Wednesday August 25, China News reports that Darfur peace talks in Nigeria have made a breakthrough on more AU forces.

Channel News Asia says Sudan agrees that AU troops can disarm rebels, talks reopen: Sudan's government will accept a larger African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur if the troops are used to contain and demobilise rebel forces, the head of Khartoum's team at peace talks revealed.

'They may need more forces besides the protection of the (AU) monitors to protect the cantonment of the rebels, and we agree about that,' Agriculture Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa said just before AU-sponsored peace talks in the Nigerian capital went into their third day."
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Aug 25: European Commission announced Wednesday a further 20 million euros (24 million dollars) in humanitarian aid for Darfur, saying the situation in the region had not improved. 'The situation is still not optimistic from a humanitarian point of view,' Peter Holdsworth, of the EC's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), through which the funds will be channelled, told reporters.

Aug 25: International Committee of the Red Cross says it is mounting a major airlift of relief supplies to Sudan's troubled Darfur region, its largest operation of this nature since the war in Iraq.

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