2nd Roundup: NATO and African Union set out plans for Darfur action
NATO and the African Union on Tuesday agreed joint action to end the crisis in Darfur, with the 26-nation western military alliance providing vital logistical support to African troops in the region.
A formal NATO decision on helping the AU is expected within the coming days, said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer after talks with Alpha Oumar Konare, head of the AU Commission.
Scheffer said he would be going to AU headquarters in Addis Abeba to discuss details of NATO's first mission in Africa.
Konare, who met NATO envoys in Brussels, told reporters his organisation needed help in transporting and housing African troops in Darfur as well as support in the communication sector.
But he insisted that the mission would be under AU leadership, with only African troops deployed in Darfur.
The AU wanted a "non-exclusive partnership" with NATO, Konare insisted, adding: "The AU will lead the mission (in Darfur) and will be in control."
"There will no non-African troops," he insisted. Scheffer said the alliance was planning a swift response to the AU request, saying he was confident NATO's decision-making council would agree to help AU in the coming days.
He promised "full transparency" with the European Union which is also working to help AU troops in Darfur.
NATO diplomats said the alliance could also provide equipment to AU forces struggling to bring peace to the war-ravaged region.
The United States is pressing for quick NATO assistance for the AU but France has so far been wary of alliance involvement in Africa.
Paris is expected to give the go-ahead to NATO aid for African troops but is insisting that the alliance should remain in close contact with the E.U. and the United Nations.
The E.U. has sent military advisers to help the African peacekeeping mission and is spending about 120 million dollars to cover some of the costs of the operation.
In Tripoli earlier, a meeting of representatives of seven Arab and African countries on Darfur agreed that negotiations should be resumed at the end of May in Abuja, Nigeria.
The African Union-sponsored negotiations held in the Nigerian capital broke down last December. Consecutive rounds had brought together representatives of the Sudanese government and rebel factions to discuss settling the conflict that began in February 2003.
The Tripoli gathering, hosted by Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, was attended by the presidents of Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Nigeria, Eritrea and the vice-president of Gabon. Representatives of the rebel factions were invited to the meeting, but did not attend.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose country chairs the African Union, said at the opening of the meeting late Monday that a solution to Darfur needed to come from within Africa, and that "any delay would only encourage foreign intervention in African affairs".
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustapha Othman Ismail, at a news conference in Tripoli late Monday, reiterated the government's position that any trials for crimes committed in Darfur would be held in Sudan with assistance by African legal advisers, reported MENA, Egypt's official news agency.
Ismail's comment came in response to a question about whether the government would respond to the request by the International Criminal Court in April to turn over persons suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Tags: Darfur Sudan Africa African+Union European+Union NATO