Sudan has summoned the Eritrean ambassador to ask why Eritrea is playing host to a Darfur rebel alliance that attacked a town, the Sudanese foreign minister said on Wednesday. Reuters report
by Opheera McDoom via WP July 5, 2006 - excerpt:
The National Redemption Front (NRF) is an alliance of Darfur rebels and political parties who reject a May 5 peace deal. It was formed in the Eritrean capital Asmara last week and attacked Hamrat al-Sheikh, 200 km (120 miles) from Khartoum, on Monday.
"If they form a movement in Asmara and come and fight against Sudan and we have asked Asmara to mediate in problems in the east then that does not augur well for peace," Foreign Minister Lam Akol told Reuters.
He said he had summoned the Eritrean ambassador on Tuesday to send a message to Asmara asking for clarification as to why they were "hosting" the rebel alliance.
The rebel leadership is based in the Eritrean capital Asmara, with the knowledge of the government.
Eritrean-Sudanese relations have substantially warmed in recent months and Asmara sent an ambassador to Khartoum in June. Asmara is mediating in talks intended to end a simmering decade-old conflict in Sudan's arid east.
Previously the two countries had no diplomatic relations because an array of Sudanese opposition parties and military movements had a presence on Eritrean territory, and Khartoum accused Asmara of running training camps for rebels.
Most of the opposition groups have since either signed agreements with Khartoum or are in peace negotiations.
But Eritrea's hosting of the new rebel alliance has raised a question over its ability to mediate neutrally, Akol said.
"This is why we are seeking clarification so we can get an answer to that question -- we told them we need an immediate answer," he added. The Eritrean embassy in Khartoum declined to immediately comment.
Monday's attack in North Kordofan, which neighbors Darfur, forced a hasty response from Sudan's armed forces, who dispatched bombers to repulse the offensive.
The NRF said an April 2004 humanitarian ceasefire was dead, the first time a rebel group has openly denounced the truce, although it has been largely ignored by all parties.
Sudanese presidential adviser Majzoub al-Khalifa on Wednesday also accused its western neighbor Chad of supporting the NRF, in comments carried in state-owned press.
Chad has played host to many of the rebel commanders involved in Monday's attack. Sudan has also been home to Chadian insurgents bent on overthrowing President Idriss Deby.