'Stop interfering in Darfur’: Sudanese minister

25th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 24 (AFP) - The international community should cease interfering in the Darfur crisis in Sudan, the country's foreign minister told the French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published Tuesday, as peace talks organised by the African Union made some progress.

PARIS, Aug 24 (AFP) - The international community should cease interfering in the Darfur crisis in Sudan, the country's foreign minister told the French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published Tuesday, as peace talks organised by the African Union made some progress.

Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail also challenged UN estimates of the number of people killed in the 18-month conflict, and accused the United States of deliberately blocking the search for a solution.

"The international community must stop intervening in our country," Osman Ismail said in the interview.

He said what had started as a long-running tribal conflict had "degenerated after multiple foreign interventions."

He said many of Sudan's rebel movements had received training in Eritrea and other African states that had a "strategic alliance" with the United States dating from the time of president Bill Clinton's administration.

Now, "some NGOs (non-governmental organisations), some circles in the United States", particularly the state-run USAID cooperation agency, have been trying to stop a peace accord for a separate rebellion in southern Sudan, he said.

The US Congress' recent vote to declare the conflict in Darfur, in western Sudan, a "genocide" was, he added, a result of "both parties looking to seduce the Afro-American vote in the next presidential election."

Asked about UN figures estimating that more than 30,000 people have died and more than one million been displaced in the conflict, Osman Ismail replied: "Give us names, show us the graves. Our estimation is around 5,000 dead, including many soldiers and policemen."

His government, he said, was "on the verge of concluding a peace accord".

The African Union's chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said Tuesday that the Sudanese government and rebels had adopted an agenda for talks aimed at reaching a lasting solution.

"I believe that we made progress," he told reporters in the Nigerian capital Abuja, where the negotiations have been taking place since Monday.

Osman Ismail told Le Figaro that his government was taking steps to rein in pro-government Arab militias, mainly members of a group known as the Janjaweed, accused of atrocities against people of black African descent in Darfur.

"We have arrested and judged 200 of them. And we have asked the militia over which we have influence to stop fighting," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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