Arab League backs Sudan on Darfur

Arab states have rallied around Sudan in its effort to avoid United Nations sanctions over the Darfur crisis, saying the Khartoum government needs more time to resolve the issue.

    The Sudanese government has agreed to disarm all factions

    A text by the Arab League, whose 22 members include Sudan, asked the international community to "reject any threat of military intervention" in Darfur.

    "We call on the international community to provide an adequate timeframe to enable the Sudanese government to meet its commitments" to the United Nations, said the draft resolution submitted to a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, on Sunday.

    Thirteen Arab League foreign ministers attended.

    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghait had said earlier Sudan might need up to 120 days to bring the situation under control.

    A UN Security Council resolution passed on 30 July gave Khartoum 30 days to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the western region, or face possible sanctions.

    "The Darfur crisis is very complicated," Abu al-Ghait said. "I cannot imagine that any country, even the United States, can solve this crisis within 30 days."

    He said the Sudanese "are now proving" that they were credible with their response to the resolution.

    Disarmament

    Khartoum has notably agreed to disarm the Janjawid, accused of atrocities in Darfur, and an African Union (AU) team backed by 300 security personnel is already monitoring a shaky truce.

    "The Darfur crisis is very complicated. I cannot imagine that any country, even the United States, can solve this crisis within 30 days"

    Ahmad Abu al-Ghait,
    Egyptian Foreign Minister

    The Arab League meeting comes a day after the AU announced fresh peace talks between Khartoum and the two Darfur rebel movements, set for 23 August in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

    Both sides have violated a ceasefire signed on 8 April, complicating efforts by aid agencies to deliver supplies to a region the size of France.

    Abu al-Ghait said the UN resolution's deadline could be "extended from 30 days to 90 days and 120 days, as long as the credibility remains".

    The draft resolution urges Arab countries to "totally support the African Union in its efforts to resolve the crisis" and calls especially on those who are AU member states "to participate effectively in the team of ceasefire observers and the protection forces of this team".

    Mediation

    The Arab League is "prepared to take part in any mediation, under the aegis of the AU, between the Sudanese government and the Darfur rebels", the resolution says.

    Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said at the start of the talks: "We will ask the Arab group for all the political support necessary to halt all attempts to impose sanctions."

    Ismail also said his country had enough troops of its own on the ground.

    "We do not need non-Sudanese troops. We need observers and maybe troops to protect them," he said. "What we ask for is to reinforce the means of the government."

    The Sudanese foreign minister said that 40,000 regular army troops were now deployed in Darfur.

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's envoy, Jan Pronk, said the United Nations needed the support of Arab and African states for the action plan adopted with Sudan to resolve the crisis.

    Support

    Both the Sudanese government
    and rebels have agreed to talks

    He said: "Security will not come about only through the efforts of the [Sudanese] government but also the international community, by offering financial and human support through the presence of international observers, notably Arab and African."

    Pronk noted the United Nations had not asked Khartoum to restore security throughout Darfur, but to make "noticeable progress" within 30 days.

    "It will be important for the government to delineate safe zones" within the 30-day period, he added.

    On the sidelines of the foreign ministers' meeting, Arab League chief Amr Musa was reported to discuss the crisis with Abu al-Ghait, Pronk, and AU commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare.

    The rebellion in Darfur erupted in February 2003 when minority tribes rose up against Khartoum to demand an equal share of national development and protection for the local population.

    The revolt prompted a heavy-handed crackdown by government troops and the Janjawid.

    SOURCE: AFP


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