Tue, Dec 21, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Promises to stop fighting does not halt Darfur violence


Sudan has pledged to halt military operations in Darfur, a UN spokeswoman said, but African Union (AU) officials said the government had kept up attacks on rebels in the region.

Union officials, in charge of monitoring a truce, said Khartoum had defied a Saturday ultimatum set by AU mediators, who had threatened to refer Sudan and the rebels to the UN Security Council if the two sides failed to meet the deadline.

Unknown fighters shot at an AU helicopter in Darfur on Sunday, but the aircraft landed safely, said AU spokesman Assane Ba, in Abuja, Nigeria. He gave no further details about the helicopter or its occupants.

Two Darfur rebel movements in Abuja on Sunday also accused the Sudanese government and the pro-government Janjaweed militia of continued attacks on villages.

Charges and countercharges are common in the war in Darfur, a conflict that has defeated three rounds of peace talks and displaced nearly 2 million people since it began in February last year.

"The government has pledged to halt all [current] military hostilities in Darfur and asked that the rebels do the same," said Radhia Achouri, a UN spokeswoman, after a security meeting on Sunday between Sudanese government representatives, the UN and Western diplomats.

Achouri said the Sudanese government had also agreed to withdraw its troops from some areas in Darfur after it consults with the AU on exact locations.

A spokesman for the rebel groups said the government and Janjaweed were trying to scuttle the peace talks by launching attacks around the villages of Mala and Arla as late as Sunday morning.

"We're asking the AU and the international community to put more pressure on the [Sudanese] government to stop these barbaric attacks on civilians," said Ahmed Tugod Lissan, a spokesman for two rebel groups.

The Sudanese government requested that the UN convey a request for cessation of attacks to the rebels, Achouri said, "So now we are going to relay this to the other party."

The rebels did not issue an immediate response.

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