Foreign role in Darfur opposed

African leaders have opposed foreign intervention in Sudan's Darfur crisis and agreed to resume stalled peace talks between warring parties by the end of May.

    Hosni Mubarak greets Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

    The leaders of Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt and a senior government official of Gabon ended a mini-summit in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Tuesday.

    The summit leaders said they would only accept AU troops in Darfur. Sudan has already opposed a plan by Canada to send military advisers to the region.

    Nigeria is the current African Union (AU) president, while most of the other countries border with Sudan.

    The conflict has displaced more than two million people in Sudan's western Darfur region.

    The two main Darfur rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - were in Tripoli but did not attend the meeting, which was restricted to government officials.

    Road map

    "I think the most important thing of this meeting is the decision to resume Abuja peace talks by the end of this month," Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said after the brief talks ended.

    "We have put in place a clearer road map to solve the problem in Darfur to reach comprehensive peace."

    The Darfur conflict broke out two years ago when rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government, complaining of discrimination. Khartoum is accused of retaliating by arming militias who burned villages and killed and raped civilians.

    At least 180,000 people have died from violence, hunger and disease and two million have been driven from their homes.

    A ceasefire signed in April 2004 has not held and the Abuja peace talks sponsored by the AU have stalled with no meetings taking place since December.

    Middle man

    Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has acted as an intermediary to help boost confidence between the warring parties and iron out differences.

    Muammar Gaddafi says he hopes
    to see African unity

    The SLM/SLA and JEM groups reiterated they wanted to resume the stalled talks, dropping their conditions for new negotiations.

    Gaddafi, who has championed the cause of African unity, is keen to push for an African solution to the Darfur conflict.

    "If the summit provides anything, we are going to welcome it because there needs to be real political will before we go to Abuja or else it will be a waste of time to return there," said JEM spokesman Taj al-Din Nyam.

    Security Council

    African leaders discussed the UN Security Council resolution to refer Sudanese accused of war crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    Sudan's foreign minister said such crimes would be tried inside Africa's largest country with the help of African legal advisers, but he offered an olive branch to the UN.

    "The decision now is that we will work to implement the decision of making the justice inside (Sudan) within the resolution which has been passed by the Security Council. We think the resolution itself gives us a chance to work within it in order to implement such a decision," he said.

    African Union troops

    Thousands have perished or been
    displaced by the conflict

    "The movement considers that the only way out is for your summit to push the Sudanese government to implement all UN Security Council resolutions," the SLM said.

    The SLM reiterated in a statement its commitment to the ceasefire and that it was ready for sincere dialogue, but opposed trying war criminals inside Sudan.

    Rebels from Darfur, which is in its third year of open revolt, have bases in the Eritrean capital, and Sudan has accused them of having training camps near the eastern border with Eritrea.

    In a sign of a charm offensive by Gaddafi, enemies Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his Eritrean counterpart Isaias Afewerki sat down for talks in Tripoli, which appeared to be a step towards reconciliation.

    War crimes 

    Abd al-Hamid Bishara al-Fashir, a member of the opposition JEM, called on the international community to play a greater role in solving the Darfur crisis.

    In an interview with Aljazeera, al-Fashir supported the UN resolution to try war crimes suspects at the International Criminal Court and said he did not trust Sudanese courts.

    "Tripoli's summit had to approve trying war criminals before the International Criminal Court in line with UN Security Council resolution 1599," al-Fashir said.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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