SUDAN WATCH: Darfur conflict could spread in days - EU

Friday, September 01, 2006

Darfur conflict could spread in days - EU

Darfur conflict could escalate into widespread fighting within days or weeks, the European Union's special envoy said on Friday, Reuters reported today:
Another 100,000 or 200,000 people could be forced to flee their homes in the northern part of the remote province, envoy Pekka Haavisto said.

"It could be a matter of days or weeks for the conflict to escalate into a widespread military operation," Haavisto told journalists on his return from a visit to Darfur.

He said EU officials working in the area had told him the situation was getting worse.

He also said it was worrying the Sudanese government was planning to send 10,000 troops to Darfur.

"We think this does not comply with the May peace agreement and appears as a vast military operation ... Some representatives say the intention is to wipe the non-signatories (of the peace agreement) off the map."

The United Nations Security Council voted on Thursday to create a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur to avert a new humanitarian disaster, which was welcomed by Haavisto. But the Sudanese government rejected the resolution as "illegal".

Haavisto said the government's objections sprang from its attitude towards the West, as it mistakenly feared Darfur would become another Iraq or Afghanistan.

As the rebel groups' main goals appear to include overthrowing the government, there are also fears that the conflict and current humanitarian crisis would spread out of Darfur, he said.

Haavisto said he had met the Sudanese government and Darfur rebel movements during his visit to Khartoum and Darfur.

"Through the EU we have worked hard all summer to bring alive the Darfur peace agreement signed in early May. We believe we will have to persuade the non-signatory parties to agree with the peace process," he said.

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