Sudan pledges to disarm militias

Sudan has said it will shortly start disarming militias which are accused of a reign of terror in its western province of Darfur.

    Around 1.2 million Darfurians have been displaced by war

    The pledge by a senior police chief on Thursday comes after the United Nations Security Council demanded action against the Janjawid and other militias last week.

    "The security and judicial commissions are going to start work

    disarming the uncontrolled militias in Darfur next week," Brigadier

    General Jamal al-Hueres, police chief of North Darfur state, told

    the pro-government Sudan Media Centre.

    The disarmament of the militias "will be carried

    out both on a voluntary basis and through searches carried out by

    the police," he added.

    Last Friday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution giving

    Khartoum 30 days to bring to heel the militias, especially the

    Janjawid, or face possible sanctions.

    The rebel movements in resource-rich Darfur, a vast region the

    size of France, have laid down the same condition for a resumption

    of peace talks they walked away from last month.

    African peackeepers

    Information Minister al-Zhawi Ibrahim Malik said on Tuesday that

    under an accord struck with UN chief Kofi Annan last month, the

    disarmament of militias would be "carried out simultaneously with

    the confinement to camp of the rebels under the supervision of an

    African force".

    He warned the government would deal with "extreme severity

    with those who refused to hand over their weapons".

    "The security and judicial commissions are going to start work

    disarming the uncontrolled militias in Darfur next week"

    Brig. General Jamal al-Hueres,

    North Darfur police chief

    According to government sources, the Darfur rebels who launched

    their revolt against the Khartoum government in the neglected

    region in February 2003 number 4000, while Western estimates

    vary between 6000 and 10,000.

    The United Nations is to send a team to Addis Ababa to help the

    African Union (AU) set up a peacekeeping force in war-ravaged

    Darfur, where more than one million people face imminent starvation,

    Annan said on Wednesday.

    The AU, meanwhile, said it may send a 2000-strong peacekeeping

    force to protect observers monitoring a shaky ceasefire and the

    estimated one million displaced civilians returning to their homes.

    "Sudanese authorities have started an open dialogue with the UN

    to meet the demands of the international community on Darfur," an

    envoy of a European Union, who asked not to be named, said.

    'Unjust' resolution

    The minister of state for foreign affairs, Tigani Saleh Fadel,

    meanwhile, said he was holding regular meetings with UN

    representatives in Khartoum "to evaluate the needs of Darfur" and

    thrash out problems.

    Several rounds have been held since the 30 July resolution, he

    said.

    The UN security council has called
    for action against the Janjawid

    "We regretted the Security Council resolution, which we regard

    as unjust, but we will continue to work with the United Nations to

    implement the agreements" with Annan, he said.

    "We want Mr Annan, in his coming report, to note the progress

    achieved."

    The UN secretary general, as a follow-up to the resolution, is

    due to submit a progress report to the 15-member body at the start

    of September on the situation in Darfur.

    However, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in comments published on 

    Thursday in the Wall Street Journal, said Sudan had yet to

    "take decisive steps to end the violence in Darfur".

    US condemnation

    "To date, the government of Sudan has removed many obstacles to

    humanitarian access, cooperated with the African Union ceasefire

    monitors, and agreed to participate in political talks," he wrote.

    "It has not, however, taken decisive steps to end the violence,"

    he said. "International pressure will continue to increase until

    Khartoum moves decisively against the Janjawid."

    Darfurian rebels are accused of
    starting the conflict

    But the authorities in Khartoum are seeking "a moving deadline"

    for implementation of the resolution, to take into account moves to

    end the humanitarian crisis, officials in Sudan said.

    Such a scenerio would "prevent sanctions, which are something

    which can only complicate the situation instead of resolving it",

    one official said.

    Humanitarian organisations operating in Sudan have already

    pointed to open and unrestricted access to the disaster zone since

    July, after a string of previous protests that they were being

    impeded by the authorities.

    SOURCE: AFP


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