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Sudan Tribune

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Sudan responds defiantly to threat of new sanctions

April 20, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan has dismissed as unjustifiable the threat of slapping new sanctions because of the Darfur conflict, vowing to do everything it can to protect what it sees as its national security.

Britain and the United States said this week they would propose the sanctions after a confidential U.N. report charged that the Khartoum government has been flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of Security Council resolutions. Russia, China and South Africa are opposed to any new sanctions.

U.S. President George W. Bush said Wednesday his country will tighten economic sanctions and impose new ones if Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir does not take quick, concrete steps to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.

The threat of new sanctions and Sudan’s angry reaction to the prospect promise to prolong Khartoum’s already long-running quarrel with the international community over the conflict in Darfur in which more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million made refugees since 2003.

The latest tussle has dampened the optimism that arose from Sudan’s decision Monday to allow the deployment of the U.N.’s so-called “heavy support package” to help the 7,000-strong African Union force in Darfur.

It includes 2,250 U.N. troops, 750 international police, and logistical and aviation equipment including six helicopter gunships which Khartoum initially opposed.

“It is hostile and unjustified and seeks to undermine security and stability in the country,” Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha said of the threat of new sanctions in remarks carried by the official media Friday.

Another Sudanese official, presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail, singled out Tony Blair for criticism, saying the British prime minister was “disillusioned.”

Ismail told a meeting of the ruling National Congress party late Thursday that Blair “must know that if Britain chooses the obstruction option, then Sudan will deal with such a British attitude in a way that will protect its national security.”

He did not elaborate.

The comments by the two Sudanese leaders coincided with strong denials by Sudan’s army and U.N. ambassador of charges by a U.N. panel that Khartoum was amassing weapons in Darfur using planes painted with the color and emblem of the world body as cover.

“This news is unfounded and baseless,” Brig-Gen Othman Muhamed Al-Aghbash, the army spokesman, was quoted as saying Friday by state radio.

Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdelhaleem has accused the U.N. panel of trying “to settle political scores” by fabricating claims that his government was conducting bombing raids in Darfur.

He insisted Thursday that photos in the panel’s report of a white plane with “UN” marked on its wings were taken in neighboring Chad or other African countries _ not in Darfur. And he said attack helicopters and military aircraft capable of dropping bombs that were photographed in Darfur were there legally.

The report by a panel of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against Sudan was sent to the Security Council sanctions committee, which includes all 15 council members. Its findings were first reported in London’s Guardian newspaper on March 28 and in Wednesday’s New York Times, which said it obtained the report from a council member.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnically African rebels rose up against the Arab dominated central government. Khartoum is accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing militias known as the janjaweed on civilian populations _ a charge the government denies.