Wed, Jan 07, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Sudan says Darfur rebels would attack over Bashir

11TH HOUR US President George W. Bush said the airlift of equipment for humanitarian efforts in Darfur is a move intended to help save lives with aid

AGENCIES , KHARTOUM AND WASHINGTON

The Sudanese government accused Darfur rebels on Monday of planning to launch attacks if Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir were indicted for war crimes and said that would bring a new round of bloodshed.

Sudan has been trying to head off a possible International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Bashir after the court’s prosecutor accused the president of genocide in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Khartoum’s rule since 2003.

Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Mutrif Siddiq said rebels were building up forces just over the border in neighboring Chad, ready for an attack on Sudanese cities and oil fields in South Kordofan, a region neighboring Darfur.

The international court’s judges are expected to decide later this month on whether to issue a warrant against Bashir.

“If this happens it is going to have a very negative impact,” Siddiq said. “The rebellion in Darfur will escalate. [The rebels] will feel jubilant ... They will say they are fighting a legitimate cause against a criminal government and a criminal president.”

Nobody was immediately available for comment from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement but leaders have repeatedly said they were preparing to attack “anytime, anywhere” in Sudan.

Siddiq said Sudan had solid information from inside Chad on the preparations for a possible attack by the rebel faction, which was driven back last May after an assault that reached the gates of Khartoum.

In July, the international court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accused Bashir of orchestrating genocide and other war crimes in Darfur. Sudan has rejected the accusations.

Siddiq said the government also suspected “political forces” in Khartoum could create instability if Bashir is indicted.

Arab and African countries want any indictment for Bashir put on hold, believing it would damage hopes of peace in Sudan, but Western states with permanent seats on the UN Security Council have the power to veto any postponement.

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush on Monday announced an airlift of equipment and vehicles for the humanitarian effort in Darfur.

The move is intended to help a joint African Union-UN team save lives by improving the delivery of humanitarian aid. The peacekeeping force has struggled with a lack of troops and transport.

Sitting with Sudan’s first vice president, Salva Kiir, at the White House, Bush said he waived State Department requirements to launch the airlift right away.

Kiir, who is president of southern Sudan and vice president in the unity government under al-Bashir, also thanked Bush for his administration’s role in the 2005 peace agreement between the south and the north.

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