Sudan president tours Darfur

Al-Bashir calls for Sudanese unity and criticises West for 'failure' in Iraq.

    Of Darfur's three major armed factions, only one has so far signed a peace deal [AFP]
    According to UN figures, four years of fighting in the region has killed at least 200,000 people and forced two million from their homes.
    Unity call
    Speaking before thousands of Sudanese in the town of Neyala on Saturday, al-Bashir called for the unity of the Sudanese people.
    "I refuse to hear the words 'dark-skinned' and Arabs, we are all dark-skinned and Arabs"

    Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan

    He stressed the government's commitment to its previous pledges for peace in Darfur and called on all armed groups to reject attempts by so-called "conspirators" to divide the country. 
    Al-Bashir said: "Tribalism and racism are illnesses. We should all promise each other that we abandon racism and division - we are all Sudanese and Muslims. Is there any problem? I refuse to hear the words 'dark-skinned' and Arabs. We are all dark-skinned and Arabs."
    Khartoum has repeatedly accused the West of exaggerating the scale of the four-year conflict.
    Iraq 'failure'
    After arriving in al-Fasher late on Saturday, the president acused George Bush, the US president, and Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister, of exaggerating Darfur's problems in order to hide their "failure" in Iraq.
    He said: "Bush and Brown exaggerate what's happening in Darfur to hide the exactions carried out in Iraq and their two countries' failure to contain the situation."
    Al-Bashir challenged Bush and Brown, two of his strongest critics, to address large crowds of Iraqis in Baghdad as he did to Darfuris.
    "No American or British official dares announce a visit to Iraq until it's already over."
    The president's tour comes ahead of a United Nations-African Union meeting in August to try and bring the region's fighting factions together.
    Peace talks

     There are about 7,000 African Union
    troops deployed in Darfur [AFP]

    In May 2006, a peace deal was signed at Abuja in Nigeria between Khartoum and only one of three negotiating rebel factions.
    The leaders of the two other factions now say they will attend the talks in August, but dozens of groups have already split from the three main Darfur factions.

    The West accuses Khartoum of unleashing an Arab militia on civilians in Darfur - a charge it denies.
    The International Criminal Court has, however, issued an arrest warrant for a Sudanese government minister and an Arab militia leader for suspected war crimes.
    The government has accepted the planned deployment of a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force to replace an under-funded and ill-equipped AU force currently operating there.
    There are already 7,000 African Union troops in the region - but their ability to stop the killing on both sides appears limited.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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