Sudan: No U.N. Troops For Darfur

Ap

Cbs News, 03 Novembre 2006

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Friday that his government will not relent on its rejection of U.N. peacekeeping troops for Darfur.

Al-Bashir, in Beijing for a landmark summit between Chinese and African leaders, said allowing U.N. troops into Darfur would lead to a greater number of deaths, likening it to the peacekeeping situation in Iraq.

"We refuse to accept the entry of U.N. peacekeepers into Sudan because the impact of our refusal is better than the impact of our acceptance," al-Bashir said, speaking in Arabic at a news conference. "We dare not think of what the consequences would be of them being there."

His hardened stance came a day after he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who urged Sudan to step up its diplomacy on Darfur.

Members of Darfur's ethnic African tribes took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in 2003, accusing it of decades of neglect and discrimination.

Al-Bashir's government has been accused of unleashing brutal militiamen known as janjaweed, who are widely alleged to have destroyed hundreds of villages, killing the inhabitants, raping women and stealing livestock.

At least 200,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced.

The U.N. has authorized 20,000 troops to replace an under-equipped force of 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, but al-Bashir's government has rejected the U.N. force, saying they would be "neocolonialists." Last month, it expelled the U.N.'s Sudan envoy.

"We were using traditional methods and measures to resolve the conflict," al-Bashir said. "The cause of the crisis is the interference from external powers ... mainly the United States."

President Bush has called the atrocities in Sudan "genocide" and warned the government last week that it must move soon to resolve the Darfur conflict.

"Sudan must understand that we're ... earnest and serious about their necessity to step up and work with the international community," the president said after meeting with Andrew Natsios, the United States' special envoy to Sudan.

Violence has been escalating recently in the region. The U.N. said large-scale militia attacks last week on civilian settlements caused scores of deaths — including children younger than 12 — and forced thousands to flee.

In the run-up to the China-Africa summit, activists are hoping that Beijing will use its growing economic clout with Africa to improve human rights. New York-based Human Rights Watch said China was supporting African governments responsible for some of the continent's worst human rights violations and particularly cited Sudan and Zimbabwe.

"China insists that it will not 'interfere' in other countries' domestic affairs, but it also claims to be a great friend of the African people and a responsible major power," Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "But that doesn't square with staying silent while mass killings go on in Darfur."