French FM raises 'emotional nature' of Darfur

11th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

KHARTOUM, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Monday raised the "emotional nature" of Darfur with President Omar al-Beshir as he pressed Sudan to accept international peacekeepers for its war-torn region.

KHARTOUM, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Monday raised the "emotional nature" of Darfur with President Omar al-Beshir as he pressed Sudan to accept international peacekeepers for its war-torn region.

Khartoum, meanwhile, shrugged off a proposed international conference on Darfur to be held in Paris later this month as ill-timed, saying it expects agreement to be reached soon on the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur.

The aim of meeting the president was "to remind President Beshir of his obligations... and to explain to him, without hostility, the true nature of the world's emotions concerning Darfur," Kouchner told reporters after the talks.

France's top diplomat, who met with Beshir for over an hour, said the meeting on the four-year-old conflict was "not easy."

"It has all been useful... There is still a complication, a difficulty even, which is that the Africans want Africa to settle its own problems," the minister said.

"I understand this, I support this, but at the same time, concerning Darfur, it is not just an African problem," Kouchner said.

Sudan has accepted two of a three-phase plan proposed last year for peacekeeping operations in Darfur but has yet to agree to the details of the final phase.

The proposal is for the deployment of a 23,000-strong international peacekeeping force to replace the current 7,000 African Union (AU) soldiers in the region.

The United Nations wants its own command system but Khartoum wants the force to be under African control.

Officials from the United Nations and the AU are in Addis Ababa with Sudanese representatives to weigh a revised deal on the deployment of international troops in Darfur.

Sudan's Foreign Minister Lam Akol, who also met with Kouchner, said he expected an agreement to be reached soon.

"I am happy to say that the three parties are currently discussing in Addis Ababa the details of a hybrid force and we hope to have an agreement in the coming hours," he said.

But he stressed that the peacekeeping operation must go hand in hand with a political solution to the conflict.

Akol shrugged off a proposed international conference on Darfur in the French capital later this month as ill-timed and a distraction to current peace efforts.

"The Paris conference is not opportune for a number of reasons," Akol told reporters.

"We are waiting actually for a roadmap that has been developed by mediators to be announced and do not want any distraction," he said in reference to an initiative proposed by the United Nations and AU to end the violence.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the G8 summit in Germany on Thursday that an international conference on the Darfur conflict would take place in Paris on June 25.

Sarkozy said the meeting would bring together the countries involved in the conflict in western Sudan as well as China to discuss a political solution and humanitarian and security issues.

Khartoum reached a peace agreement with Darfur rebels on May 5, 2006 in Nigeria but only one of three negotiating rebel factions endorsed the deal and violence has since spiralled.

Sudanese presidential advisor Ghazi Atabani, referring to the Paris conference, said that while the French efforts were appreciated, more discussion was needed.

"If it was to give a boost to the political process that is ongoing, that's something positive," Atabani told reporters. He said there was a fear of creating "a parallel initiative."

The Darfur conflict broke out in 2003 when an ethnic minority rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which then enlisted the Janjaweed militia group to help crush the rebellion.

The conflict has killed at least 200,000 people and forced more than two million from their homes, according to the United Nations, though Khartoum contests those estimates, saying 9,000 people have died.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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