EU firm on Sudan sanctions threat

The European Union has vowed to keep up pressure on the Sudanese government over the crisis in Darfur, maintaining the threat of sanctions despite what it calls some encouraging signs from Khartoum.

    The world has been gripped by the plight of the people in Darfur

    Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said on Monday he had been given assurances by visiting Foreign Minister Mustafa Usman Ismail, whom he met on Saturday.

    "I expressed the great concern of the European Union... and he was very positive in the sense that he promised full implementation of the agreement between the United Nations and the Sudanese government," Bot told reporters.

    But he added: "Of course, it is not words that count, it is deeds. If deeds are not following then of course we will reconsider and see if sanctions or measures are necessary."

    Since early 2003, Sudan's western Darfur province has been in the throes of armed conflict where rebel movements have exploited the situation which was a land dispute, exploited by rebels to make political gains.

    Rebels agreed to negotiations but walked out after insisting their demands be met before any more talks. Even though there was a cease-fir agreement and an agreement to disarm on all sides, everyone blames the other.

    "Media agencies have been reporting it as an issue between Arab and non-Arab, when this is not true. It is a land issue turned into a power struggle," according to an unnamed Sudanese official.

    "Of course it is not words that count, it is deeds. If deeds are not following then of course we will reconsider and see if sanctions or measures are necessary."

    Ben Bot,

    Dutch Foreign Minister 

    The conflict has claimed between 30,000 and 50,000 lives and about 1.2 million have been displaced, with about 200,000 people taking refuge in neighbouring Chad, according to a UN representative.

    The Dutch minister declined to specify what sanctions might be imposed on Khartoum.

    "That is something we have to consider later. Now that the Sudanese government has promised full cooperation, let us encourage them," he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

    "Let's not talk about sanctions before we have seen what those encouraging elements will bring us," he added.

    Peace talks

    Sudan has asked Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi to sponsor peace talks to bring an end to 18 months of bloodshed in its troubled Darfur region, the official Libyan news agency JANA reported on Monday.

    A Sudanese ministerial delegation on Sunday delivered a message from President Umar al-Bashir calling on al-Qadhafi to "sponsor peace negotiations on Darfur", the news agency said.

    Sudan's Interior Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein and
    Agriculture Minister Majzub al-Khalifa Ahmed delivered the message during a visit to neighbouring Libya on Sunday. 

    African Union-sponsored peace talks in the Ethiopian capital
    Addis Ababa broke down on 18 July without an agreement between the Khartoum government and the two ethnic minority rebel groups active in Darfur.

    On Sunday, al-Qadhafi held high-level talks with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit and the head of the country's intelligence service to discuss the situation in Darfur.

    Tripoli earlier this month announced the creation of a humanitarian corridor from Libya to Sudan and Chad to bring help to those displaced by the fighting. 

    Worst crisis

    The UN has warned that conflict in Darfur has plunged the western Sudanese region into the world's worst current humanitarian crisis.

    It says up to 50,000 people have died since a revolt against the government in Khartoum broke out among the
    indigenous minorities in February 2003.



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