Home | News    Thursday 9 December 2004

Sudan welcomes US aid for Darfur, slams call for sanctions

KHARTOUM, Dec 9 (AFP) — Sudan welcomed US congressional approval of 200 million dollars in aid for the war-torn Darfur region, but criticized an accompanying resolution imposing sanctions on the country.

A Sudanese boy rides his bicycle at al-Sereif refugee camp in the outskirts of Nyala in the southern Darfur region. (AFP).

"There is a certain group within the US Congress that incites hostility against Sudan and seeks to strain bilateral ties between the two countries, and that group is behind the call for sanctions," Foreign Minister Mustafa Osmal Ismail said at a press conference, without giving names.

"We welcome this humanitarian assistance... but we do not want this assistance to be used to serve a political agenda. We are aware that Congress has for long been exploiting the Darfur question politically."

On Tuesday, the US Senate approved a bill providing the aid, while punishing the government for failing to stop atrocities in the western Darfur region, where an estimated 70,000 people have been killed in almost two years of fighting.

The "Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act of 2004" aims to respond to the US allegations of genocide in Darfur, providing support for the deployment of additional African Union forces to the region.

It also sanctions the Sudanese government for its continued failure to intervene to stop the atrocities in Darfur, imposing an asset freeze on senior officials and calling on President George W. Bush to impose a travel ban on them.

Ismail said that not a single Sudanese government official or politician has any assets in American banks and defied the Congressmen to prove otherwise.

"I challenge the Congress or any other institution to prove that any senior government or ruling party official has a single dollar in any US bank," he said.

He said the travel ban is already in effect, as entry visas are now denied except to him and officials traveling to participate in meetings of international bodies, like the World Bank and the United Nations.

"If they want to impose the ban on the excepted officials, we are going to reciprocate and will see which side will be harmed," Ismail warned at the press conference, in which a delegation of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries took part.

Black Sudanese rebels rose up in Darfur, a vast western area the size of France, in February 2003. The rebellion was put down by the Arab-led government with the help of Arab militias known as Janjaweed which have been blamed for a campaign of ethnic cleansing including murder, rape and pillage.

An estimated 70,000 people have died, many of hunger and disease, and another 1.5 million people are believed to have been driven from their homes.

On Tuesday, Washington said the international community was "getting nowhere" in easing the crisis in Darfur, as the United Nations warned the troubled Sudan region was headed into chaos.

The UN Security Council was briefed on a report by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, which said the Sudan government had "made no progress" in disarming Darfur militias behind the violence.

US Ambassador John Danforth, who last month led a council mission to Africa on Sudan, said: "We’re getting nowhere with respect to Darfur. We’ve tried everything. We’ve tried the carrot approach, we’ve tried the stick approach and we’re getting nowhere."