Sudan rejects ceasefire ultimatum - Darfur talks: is this a turning point?
Several breaking news reports from Switzerland and Australia say Sudan rejects ceasefire ultimatum.
Apparently, just before the deadline expired, a senior AU diplomat said government troops had not yet began to withdraw as demanded today, pushing peace talks to the brink of collapse. The chief negotiator of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement said the government had done nothing to halt its advance. "We expect fighting in a few hours from now," he said.
Sudan Tribune confirms Sudan rejects ultimatum.
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UPDATE: Agence France Presse quotes AU spokesman as saying, "General Okonkwo informed us that there is some fighting going on around Labado (in southern Darfur) which means that the government did not comply with the ultimatum to withdraw its troops from Labado," he told reporters.
"General Okonkwo said he has spoken with his mission on the ground and said that up until now helicopters are firing on Labado," he added. This information was correct at 1730 GMT, 30 minutes after the AU ultimatum expired, he said.
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DARFUR TALKS: IS THIS A TURNING POINT?
Fighting in Darfur continued into Friday night despite a 24-hour ultimatum set by the African Union for both rebels and the government to end all ceasefire violations.
The African Union says there has been a massive military build-up in the region in the last two weeks and that it will report ceasefire violations to the U.N. Security Council if the fighting does not end by 1700 GMT on Saturday. Referral to the United Nations would raise the stakes.
"If the government does not comply we will know that they are not really ready to continue with the talks. By 6:00 pm we will know what to do," said Sam Ibok, a senior AU diplomat who chairs the political negotiations which are at the heart of the Abuja process.
The U.N. has expressed its concern at the reports, while Britain has informed the Sudanese government that it is in breach of three UN resolutions.
German President Horst Köhler, who held talks earlier with AU commission chairman Alpha Omar Konare, urged the international community to assist the pan-African body in resolving the deadly Darfur conflict. "I don't think that the international community is helpless," he said. "The most important thing now is to listen very closely to what the AU proposes about ways of settling the conflict, and it is on this basis thatthe international community should come together to finally resolve that conflict."
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INDIAN OIL COMPANY WANTS TO RAISE $600m FOR SUDAN PROJECT
Hindu Business Online reported yesterday the Indian oil company ONGC is approaching bankers to raise $600m for financing a refinery expansion project in Port Sudan, which was awarded to its subsidiary, ONGC Videsh Ltd.
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TURKISH MINISTER MEETS WITH SUDANESE OFFICIALS
Turkish Press reveals that the Turkish Transportation Minister met with Sudanese officials on Thursday to further improvement of Turkish-Sudanese relations. Noting that Turkish businessmen should give priority to the urbanisation projects in Sudan, they said Sudan could make use of Turkey's experiences in construction sector.
On the other hand, Sudanese Parliament Speaker al-Tahir said that Turkey had become a door for Sudan opening to Europe, and stated that his country could improve its relations with Europe via Turkey.
The European Union is 'writing history' with its decision to start membership talks with Turkey next October, the bloc's Dutch presidency said Friday at the close of an EU summit.
Note Britain's Blair hails EU deal on Turkey seeks to allay fears.
Further reading: Annan urges Europeans to play lead role in talks on new collective security structure.
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SUDAN'S DARFUR INQUIRY THREATENS FRESH CONTROVERSY OVER ICC
A report in the Financial Times yesterday explains European and U.S. United Nations ambassadors are struggling to head off what could be their most pointed battle yet over the International Criminal Court, as a U.N. commission of inquiry prepares to report in January on alleged genocide in Darfur.
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KHARTOUM TO BAN U.S. OFFICIALS FROM ENTERING SUDAN
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said Khartoum will ban U.S. officials from entering Sudan in response to a similar measure taken by the United States. The U.S. had banned the entry of Sudanese officials to show its disapproval with the way Khartoum handles the situation in Darfur.
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BRITISH COUPLE RISK CHARITY MISSION TO SUDAN
A British couple who have dedicated the last five years of their life to charity work are set to spend the New Year in one of the dangerous areas of the world. Relief-aid workers Ed and Rachel Walker will depart in early January for Darfur
The husband and wife team will be working for Tear Fund, which is launching its feeding and sanitation programmes in some of the worst affected areas inside Darfur. Teams are digging more than two thousand latrines, as well as training members of the community about sanitation and personal hygiene.
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WHY I DECIDED TO GIVE AWAY £7MILLION TO AFRICA
British entrepreneur Tom Hunter has pledged £7 million to tackle third world poverty. He vows to match Band Aid penny for penny.
Read "Why I decided to give away £7m to help Africa."