Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Sudanese protest UN ultimatum

SANCTIONS PROPOSED The ruling party organized a demonstration of 100,000 people, accusing foreign nations of trying to get at Sudan's natural resources

AP , KHARTOUM, SUDAN

A Sudanese refugee rides his donkey at dusk as he crosses a dry riverbed near Bredjing camp in eastern Chad on Wednesday. Over 200,000 refugees fleeing fighting in neighboring Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region are living in camps scattered along Chad's eastern border.

PHOTO: REUTERS

More than 100,000 people staged a state-organized protest against a UN Security Council resolution giving Sudan 30 days to stop Arab militia violence in the western region of Darfur or face economic and diplomatic penalties.

Protesters also warned on Wednesday that Sudan could become a battlefield like Afghanistan or Iraq if foreign military forces enter this African country to try to end the 17-month Darfur conflict, which has killed 30,000 people, forced a million from their homes and left an estimated 2.2 million in urgent need of food, medicine and other basics.

"Targeting Sudan means you will fall into a third swamp, after Afghanistan and Iraq," said a senior member of the ruling party, Mohammed Ali Abdullah, in comments directed at US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"There are lions here in Sudan who would like to confront the Americans," he said.

Although no Western government has threatened to invade Sudan, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has mentioned the possibility of such intervention since it became clear the Khartoum government was failing to curb the violence in Darfur. France has deployed a small force along Chad's border with Darfur to stop Arab militia from crossing over.

In Ethiopia on Wednesday, the African Union said it would send a peacekeeping mission of 1,600 to 1,800 troops to Darfur to speed up humanitarian aid and counter the repeated violations of an April 8 cease-fire deal between the Sudanese government and two rebel groups.

It was unclear when the force would be sent.

In New York, Annan said he was sending a team led by the UN military adviser to Ethiopia on Wednesday to work with the African Union on the restructuring of the force and its needs.

The expanded force "would protect the monitors, it will protect the regroupment camps for the rebels and the groups that are going to be disarmed, and its mere presence on the ground would also have a positive impact and dissuade further attacks," Annan said.

He also said Wednesday's Khartoum demonstrations "are not unexpected," saying governments sometimes use demonstrations to "pressure" the world body and "send a message to the international community."

When Annan was asked by a reporter whether the Sudanese Government is ready to cooperate with the international community, he replied, "I think the Sudanese government has got the message. I have a representative on the ground. You also have to understand that it is a complex society, and some of the statements you hear are not necessarily for you or me, but for people on the ground."

On Friday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution giving Sudan 30 days to curb pro-government Arab militias blamed for the violence in Darfur or face penalties.

Annan has said he expects Sudan to cooperate with the resolution, but warned of consequences if Khartoum does not.

In a July 29 statement, Annan accused Sudanese "government security personnel" of threatening displaced people and expressed grave concern about "reports of continuing intimidation, threats and attacks against refugees."

Wednesday's protesters, many chanting "No to America and its followers," delivered a memorandum to the UN envoy's office in Khartoum demanding Annan retract his "misleading" remarks about the Darfur situation or resign.

"You, as the secretary general of the United Nations, hold all the responsibility for escalating the crisis in Darfur as your remarks formed the basis of the misleading, antagonistic Western propaganda against Sudan," the memorandum said in Arabic.

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