Mon, Jan 09, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Sudan offers Libya help with new army

CONTROVERSY:A visit by Sudan’s president to Libya was criticized by groups who said it raised questions about the NTC’s desire to encourage to human rights

Reuters, TRIPOLI

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges, said on Saturday he has offered to help Libya integrate its dozens of militias into the country’s armed forces.

“We have experience in integrating rebels in a national army,” said Bashir, whose visit to Libya drew criticism from human rights groups.

“We have offered to help our brothers in Libya in building a national army that includes the components of the Libyan revolution. Our experts are available and our officers are available,” he said.

Bashir also said he had offered the new Libyan government help from Sudanese troops in protecting Libya’s southern borders during the war that ended former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s rule, but that his offer was declined.

Libya’s new rulers are struggling to include thousands of former rebels who helped oust Qaddafi in a military and police force or in civilian jobs.

National Transitional Council (NTC) chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil warned last week that Libya risked sliding into civil war unless it cracks down on rival militias that filled the vacuum left by Qaddafi’s downfall.

The militias are vying with each other for influence and believe that to ensure they receive their due share of political power they need to keep an armed presence in the capital.

Abdul Jalil, who visited Khartoum in November, has said Sudanese weapons and ammunition helped Libya’s former rebels oust Qaddafi last year and take control of the North African country.

Relations between Khartoum and Tripoli were strained during Qaddafi’s rule because of his support for rebels in Sudan’s western Darfur region and in South Sudan, which gained independence in July under a 2005 peace deal.

Bashir said that the ousting of Qaddafi was “the best piece of news in Sudan’s modern history.”

“We came here to thank the Libyan people for the gift they offered to the Sudanese people by removing Qaddafi,” he said.

Bashir’s visit was criticized by rights groups.

“Welcoming Bashir ... raises questions about the NTC’s stated commitment to human rights and the rule of law,” Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Following the end of decades of brutal rule in Libya, it is disturbing if Tripoli hosts a head of state on the run from international arrest warrants for grave human rights violations,” Dicker said.

Mohammed al-Keelani, who heads a group of 50 Libyan civil society organizations, said Bashir was not welcome in Libya.

“For us, Omar al-Bashir is the Qaddafi of Sudan,” he said. “We have reservations against this visit because he’s a tyrant who oppresses his people and his policy contradicts our principles.”

Bashir is under increasing pressure at home after his country lost much of its oil production to the south.

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