French FM appeals for Khartoum’s help in Darfur

28th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

EL FASHER, Sudan, July 27 (AFP) - The crisis in the war-torn western Darfur region of Sudan can only be resolved with Khartoum's help, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Tuesday on a visit to the area.

EL FASHER, Sudan, July 27 (AFP) - The crisis in the war-torn western Darfur region of Sudan can only be resolved with Khartoum's help, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Tuesday on a visit to the area.

"France is convinced we will not get out of this crisis (in Darfur) without Sudan, and even less likely by working against Sudan, but that we need Sudan's" help, Barnier said after meeting top regional government officials.

His short trip came as the international community ratcheted up pressure to end a conflict between Darfur rebels and government-backed militia that has cost up to 50,000 lives and displaced more than 1.2 million people.

"We must return to dialogue and mutual respect," Barnier said, while stressing that Khartoum must respect its commitments concerning Darfur, specifically disarming pro-government Arab militias.

The minister met with observers from the African Union tasked with monitoring a largely-ignored ceasefire deal and went to a refugee camp at Abu Chouk. He was later scheduled to return to neighbouring Chad, which is hosting some 200,000 Sudanese refugees.

Barnier added that the most urgent issue was getting aid to the tens of thousands of suffering women and children, and that France was ready to send humanitarian aid.

The Sudanese regional officials reiterated Khartoum's position that threatening Sudan with international intervention was counterproductive, and had only contributed to the breakdown of negotiations with rebels.

Called the world's worst humanitarian crisis by the United Nations, more than 1.2 million people have been forced from their homes since February last year when rebels rose up against Khartoum, protesting that the largely black region had been ignored by the Arab government of the oil-rich state.

France, Britain, the United States and other countries have been exerting increasing pressure on the Sudanese government to rein in pro-government Arab militias which have been accused of systematic rape and other atrocities against the indigenous black Africans living in Darfur.

The European Union on Monday urged the United Nations to pass a resolution warning of sanctions on Sudan if it fails to end the conflict, prompting a reply by the Sudanese foreign minister that "threats" were counterproductive.

The prospect of international intervention has grown sharply in recent days. Britain has said it could send 5,000 troops to the region if required, and Australia said it was considering a UN request for military personnel to join a mission there expected to be deployed by the end of the year.

But the United States said that security in Darfur was Khartoum's responsibility, ruling out for the moment calls for an international force even as it piled more pressure on the Sudanese government for immediate action.

Washington last Thursday put forward a draft UN Security Council resolution authorising sanctions against Sudan if militia leaders are not brought to justice, while the US Congress unanimously labelled the situation a "genocide".

Sudan has claimed it is taking steps against the militias and pledged to help humanitarian aid get to the region.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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