SUDAN WATCH: Blair and Bush to announce new famine initiative - SLA/JEM infighting kills 11 - Germany mulls over Khartoum's blockade policies

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Blair and Bush to announce new famine initiative - SLA/JEM infighting kills 11 - Germany mulls over Khartoum's blockade policies

A report in today's Scotsman says US President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair will announce a joint initiative today costing the 674 million dollars (GBP 370 million) to help an estimated 14 million people threatened by famine in Africa, the White House said.

The announcement appeared intended to take the sting out of Bush's opposition to Blair's more expensive plan for doubling aid to Africa. The amount of Britain's contribution to the joint initiative was not disclosed, but it was said to be less than Washington's.

Bush and Blair are to meet at the White House this afternoon. The joint initiative will focus on the food needs of people vulnerable to famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It also will address humanitarian needs in other countries in Africa, a senior White House official said.

Ethiopian boy
CNN Photo: An Ethiopian boy drinks water from an old bottle.

Bush has rejected Blair's efforts to persuade the world's wealthiest nations to back his plan to double aid to Africa. The prime minister, the host of this year's summit of the major eight industrialised democracies, hopes to use the meeting in early July in Gleneagles, Scotland, to raise an extra 50 billion dollars (GBP 27.5 billion) a year by selling bonds on the world's capital markets.

"It doesn't fit our budgetary process," Bush said last week. The Bush administration says the mechanism would conflict with US budget laws by binding future governments to providing money.

Bush and Blair are to hold a news conference this afternoon, where they are expected to announce their joint initiative. They will call on other countries to increase their commitment to address humanitarian emergencies in Africa, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not been formally made.

Blair's US visit is part of a blitz of trips to lobby foreign leaders ahead of the Scotland summit. In coming weeks, Blair is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Blair's wish list is likely to be a tough sell in the US. Bush opposes the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and his administration questions views that man-made pollutants are causing temperatures to rise. The White House has also rejected many of Blair's proposals on African debt relief.

Yesterday, Blair's official spokesman said Blair wasn't looking for any breakthroughs in Washington.

"This visit is part of the preparation for Gleneagles, not Gleneagles itself," the spokesman said. "So we are not expecting ... to see the final US position tomorrow. That will come at Gleneagles."
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Press briefing on Tony Blair's visit to Washington and the EU Constitution

10 Downing Street's Morning Press Briefing from 6 June 2005 on PM's visit to Washington and the EU Constitution.
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Arms bill hits US$1 trillion

June 7, 2005 report at BBC, DefenseNews and China's Standard. Excerpt:

Global military spending blasted past the US$1 trillion mark in 2004, with the U.S. alone accounting for nearly half of the total because of its "war on terror," the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found.

Military spending reached US$1.035 trillion last year - or US$162 for every inhabitant of Earth - compared to US$956 billion in 2003, the institute revealed Tuesday in its annual report.
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ICC launches Darfur war crimes investigation

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a formal investigation into suspected crimes against humanity in Darfur.
"The investigation will be impartial and independent, focusing on the individuals who bear the greatest criminal responsibility for crimes committed in Darfur," the ICC said in a statement.
It did not name any suspects. Telegraph June 6, 2005.

AFP reports that Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will brief the United Nations in New York later this month about his plans to investigate Darfur.
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Rebel infighting in South Darfur kills 11, injures 17-AU

The last round of Darfur peace talks collapsed in December after the Darfur rebel group SLA leadership boycotted talks because of a government offensive on the ground in Darfur. Rebel divisions have plagued previous rounds of talks, AU officials say.

Last month, after the rebels met with Libyan leader Col Gaddafi, Darfur peace talks were supposed to resume May 30 or June 1. Rebels postponed the talks to June 10. You have to wonder at the reason for the delay. As stated here recently, anything could happen in the run up to June 10. And it has. African Union said today in a statement that on June 3 SLA attacks on the JEM-occupied town of Gereida in South Darfur killed 11 people, injured 17. Some houses were burnt down.

JEM occupied Gereida town, south of Nyala, despite calls for them to evacuate and allow AU forces to takeover.

"The JEM and SLA are hereby called upon to cease hostilities and pull out their forces completely from Gereida," AU spokesman Mezni said.

"The government of the Sudan is urged to continue its current laudable restraint and the rebel forces are called upon to show similar restraint at this moment when all efforts are being made to reconvene the Abuja political talks on June 10, as scheduled," he added.
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Note, graphic below showing location of refugee camps. Not many appear to be situated in South Darfur where oil was recently discovered. South Darfur is a dangerous area which many people seem to be fighting over. A horrific day-long premeditated militia attack took place there in a town called Khor Abeche in March of this year.

Darfur crimes graphic

Reuters graphic shows a detailed map of Sudan's Darfur region and location of refugee camps.
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Obasanjo hopes talks finally resolve Darfur crisis

Nigerian President, Chairman of the African Union, Olusegun Obasanjo, hopes the next round of peace talks will make a final resolution to the crisis in the west Sudanese region of Darfur, his spokeswoman said Monday.

"The Darfur talks will resume on June 10 in Abuja (Nigeria's capital). AU Chairman Obasanjo is hoping the talks will finally meet the settlement of the Darfur crisis," Obasanjo's spokeswoman Remi Oyo told Xinhua by telephone from Abuja.

Oyo said both the Sudanese government and two main rebels in Darfur had agreed to come for the Abuja talks.

Najeeb el-Kheir Abdu-el-Wahab, minister of state in the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, said Sunday in Khartoum that the government has formulated a 18-man delegation to participate in this round of talks.

The delegation, headed by ruling National Congress's political secretary, will arrive in Abuja Wednesday, el-Kheir told reporters.

This round, which is expected to last for three weeks, will mainly focus on the issue of the political solution based on the declaration of principles which had been discussed during the lastround, he said.

And the talks would be held in a complete secrecy with little leakage to the media so as to ensure it be final and successful, said el-Kheir.

The representatives of the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League, the United States, France and Sweden are also expected to participate in the talks.
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Darfur rebels might not arrive on time for peace talks

Note Darfur rebels regret deadly internecine clashes.

Also, Tues June 8 report excerpt via SudanTribune:

SLA President Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur also said he would go to Abuja, but said the AU had not given them enough time to prepare their team, which was coming from the field in Darfur and all round the world.

"They told us on June 2 and we have told them in the past we need two weeks to prepare our team," he told Reuters. "The AU just want to make it look like we are the ones delaying the talks."

SLA SAYS IT NEEDS MORE TIME

Nur said the SLA had requested a delay until June 15 to collect their team. "We are a guerrilla movement, we are not a government -- we rely on the AU for transportation," he added.

The SLA leadership boycotted the last round of talks in December in protest against a government offensive launched in their part of South Darfur.

They said they would not return to talks until government forces had withdrawn from all the areas they had occupied during this operation. The AU confirmed almost two months ago that the Sudanese armed forces had carried out the withdrawal.

The smaller rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said they would be in Abuja on time, but declined to say whether their leader Khalil Ibrahim would be present.
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Sudan to resume talks with exiled group

Agencies, Arab News

KHARTOUM, 6 June 2005 -- Stalled peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and exiled opposition groups are to resume in Cairo next weekend and continue until a final deal is reached, officials said yesterday. Talks between the government and the opposition National Democratic Alliance will start next Saturday, Sudanese state radio quoted Ibrahim Ahmed Omar, secretary-general of the ruling National Congress party as saying.

Omar also predicted that with many outstanding issues already resolved, an agreement could be signed a few days after the discussions commence, saying "the final agreement will be signed by the two sides on June 16." The NDA, a coalition of northern, southern, eastern and western opposition groups, including the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement, confirmed talks with the government would resume on June 11. "The discussions will start on Saturday," NDA vice president Abdul Rahman Saeed told AFP.

But he did not share the government's optimism that a deal could be signed five days later, saying "it was possible, but not certain." Saeed explained that the talks will kick off with meetings aimed at reaching a deal on how to implement an initial agreement the two sides signed in January, particularly on political and military issues. "We have already agreed," he said, adding that the discussions will focus on "implementing what we have agreed upon."

Meanwhile, Sudanese President Omar Bashir said he hoped rebels would join talks in the Nigerian capital next week aimed at reaching a peace deal for Darfur. "The government is committed to take part in the Abuja talks with a high-level delegation that possesses a full mandate and we hope observers and rebels will participate with high-level delegations too for reaching a peaceful political settlement that leads to peace and stability in Darfur," Bashir said.

He said he hoped the round of talks starting on June 10 "will be a final one that paves the way for convening a comprehensive conference for the people of Darfur for boosting peace, stability, development and services in the region," according to Omdurman Radio.
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4-5 Jul 2005 - Libya hosts African Union leaders, seeking African solutions in Darfur

TRIPOLI. 4-5 July 2005. Report excerpt: This second summit in 2005 of the 53-nation African Union could be sobering as it will be the one where the leaders measure their efforts to ease or end one of the continent’s most serious and difficult recent catastrophes -- the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
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Germany mulls over Khartoum's blockade policies

By Der Spiegel

HAMBURG, Germany, June 6, 2005 (Sudan Tribune) -- The Bundeswehr, German Federal Armed Forces, mission to Sudan, which was approved by parliament on April 13, might be stopped far earlier than originally planned.

Defence Minister Peter Struck is considering calling off the deployment of up to 75 soldiers, who should serve as military observers in a 10,000-troop UN force, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported.

The reason for this is the Sudanese government's blockade policy.

With devious measures, it is trying to hamper the deployment of UN soldiers: thus, the first four Bundeswehr staff officers, who recently travelled to the capital Khartoum, were only granted visas for four weeks - although the UN mission is to last more than six years. A deployment agreement with the United Nations, so that visas are no longer required, is also being blocked.

Moreover, apparently, other countries do not keep their promises they gave to the United Nations either: instead of the planned 10,000 soldiers, the world organization has so far only 1,500 troops available.

The Blue Helmets are to secure a peace agreement that was signed between Khartoum and the rebels in the south after 21 years of civil war.

After a meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York, Struck wants to decide at the end of June whether to stop the Sudan operation.

Germany already has 7,500 soldiers serving on missions overseas, with the largest contingents in Afghanistan and the Balkans.
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Note, perhaps Khartoum are afraid of this:

June 6 Deutsche Welle report Preparing Germany's Military for War report. And this:

EU may send peacekeeping force to Darfur

Copy of Financial Times report by Guy Dinmore and Hubert Wetzel in Washington, and Daniel Dombey in Vilnius, April 21 2005:

UK, French and German forces could be sent to stop the violence in Sudan's region of Darfur as part of a European Union peacekeeping mission -- that is one of several ideas to be discussed by EU foreign ministers next week, officials said on Thursday.

The proposed EU peacekeeping force, which would be the second sent to Africa, would support an African Union observer mission made up largely of Nigerian and Rwandan troops who are already in the region, although in too small numbers to have any real impact.

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