Sudan demands African Union peacekeeping force
- Despite U.S. threat of sanctions,
Sudan demands African Union peacekeeping force
By Saeed Shabazz
May 15, 2007
Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, second from
right, greets Oumar Konare, 2nd left, Chairman of the African Union
and former President of Mali and AU's Salim Ahmed Salim, left, and
U.N.'s Jan Eliasson at the beginning of an informal meeting regar ding
Sudan at U.N. Headquarters in New York Monday, Apr. 16.
Photo: AP/World Wide Photos
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) - African Union chairman Alpha Oumar
Konare and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recently met
in New York for high-level discussions about problems in Sudan,
particularly in the Darfur region.
"We have had very intensive discussions on how to address the Darfur
situation; and we are encouraged by the positive signs we have
received from the Sudanese government," the secretary-general told
reporters on Apr. 17.
The day before, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed to accept
deployment of the United Nation's "heavy support package," which will
supplement the 7,000-man African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.
Included in the heavy support package are 2,250 UN troops, 750
international police, and logistical and aviation equipment including
six helicopter gun ships.
The Sudanese government has been accused of genocide in the Darfur
region of the country as part of a civil war. Western nations, in
particular, have been pushing the UN to take action. The deployment of
an African peacekeeping force to protect civilians in Darfur has been
seen as a compromise. The Sudanese government has denied that genocide
has been committed.
The AU called for the "consideration of sustainable funding for the
African Union Mission in Sudan" following the two-day talks.
Ambassador Said Djinnit, AU commissioner for peace and security, told
reporters AMIS is costing the AU $25 million a month.
"I share all the views that the secretary-general expressed and we
will continue to strengthen this partnership between the African Union
and the United Nations," Mr. Konare said. The meeting between the AU
leader and UN secretary-general was held Apr. 16-17.
The New York Times published a story Apr. 16 claiming that a
"confidential report" leaked to the paper accused the Sudanese
government of "painting" its own military planes to disguise them as
United Nations or African Union aircraft.
"The freshly painted planes are being operated out of all three of
Darfur's principal airports and are being used for aerial surveillance
and bombardments of villages," the Times said. The article also
charged the Bashir administration with flying "ammunition and weapons
into the western region" in violation of a 2005 arms embargo.
The confidential report to the Panel of Experts, which is still being
studied by the UN Sanctions Committee, was the reputed source for the
Times story. The newspaper said the report was leaked by a member of
the 15-member Security Council. The Associated Press said the report
was given to their UN correspondent, and was originally leaked to the
London-based Guardian on Mar. 28.
"The Sudan was shocked and outraged to see the report fully leaked to
The New York Times," Sudanese Ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdelhaleem
said, in a prepared statement. As he walked through the corridors of
the United Nations, Amb. Abdelhaleem called those responsible for the
leak "enemies of peace and stability" in his nation.
The ambassador denounced the charges as false, saying they had
previously been discussed. "The publication of the report in the
aforesaid newspaper and its timing, raises serious questions about the
real intentions behind such leaks," he said.
"Leaking of the report not only jeopardizes and compromises required
professionalism, but also seriously hurt the image of the United
Nations and its Security Council," added the Sudanese statement,
released Apr. 18.
President George W. Bush warned Apr. 18 that the U.S. was poised to
"take unilateral steps against Sudan, including sanctions against 29
government-controlled Sudanese companies and the blocking of any
dollar-based transactions conducted by Khartoum." The president said
Sudan had "one last chance" to accept a 20,000 strong UN peacekeeping
force approved by the Security Council.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed called for "destroying of Khartoum's air
force on the ground" the "next time evidence emerges that Pres. Bashir
is using it against Darfur."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "It's a positive
thing that this report is coming out because it is important
information that will inform the debate about what diplomatic steps
should be taken concerning Darfur."
"This information is baseless," countered Sudanese Army spokesman
Brigadier General Othman Mohammed al-Aghbach in an AFP article. "This
type of accusation is unacceptable and can put an end to cooperation
with the parties initiating them," he said.
Secretary-General Ban called on Sudan to "clarify the accusations" in
a press statement.
Calls to the AU office in New York for comment were not returned at
Final Call press time.
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