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15 May 2008 07:50
Chad’s foreign minister risked alienating his country even further from Sudan on Wednesday by urging the international community to arm-twist Khartoum into resolving the Darfur crisis.
Sudan severed diplomatic ties with Chad on Sunday, accusing Ndjamena of backing a rebel assault on the Sudanese capital at the weekend. Chad closed its border the following day, ramping up tensions between the volatile neighbours.
Relations have been tense between the two countries since 2003 when war broke out in Darfur, sending hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing across the Chadian border.
It was the Darfur issue that Foreign Minister Moussa Faki, a former prime minister and key figure in Chad’s new unity government, brought up on Wednesday.
He said the time had come for the world to “make [Sudan] see reason” over its war-torn province and to accelerate the implementation of a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission.
“The hybrid force must be deployed,” Faki said.
“We have the impression that nothing has progressed, whereas the consequences have been felt way beyond the original theatre [of operations].”
Darfur has been devastated by civil war since 2003, but the 26 000-strong force is not yet fully manned because of a row over non-African contingents, with Sudan insisting that African options must be explored fully first.
A European Union peacekeeping force in Chad and the Central African Republic has as its primary objective the protection of refugees from Darfur.
Faki defended Chad against Sudan’s accusations that it had backed last Saturday’s attack on Khartoum, saying his country had enough problems trying to control its own borders.
Chad has suffered “several attacks emanating from Sudan”, he said, adding that Ndjamena was hardly going to “set off on an adventure more than 3 000km away to attack Omdurman”.
Justice and Equality Movement rebels fought government forces on Saturday in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, which lies just across the Nile River from the capital, prompting an indefinite curfew in the normally bustling metropolis.
More than 200 people were killed in that assault and other clashes outside the city over three days, as the rebel force headed from the remote west to Omdurman in at least 150 vehicles. The dead included 97 soldiers.
Sudan and Chad have traded accusations in recent years of supporting rebel groups seeking to destabilise their respective regimes.
They broke off relations for four months in 2006 after Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno accused Sudan of arming the rebels who launched an earlier coup attempt that year.
His government on Monday froze the activities of a Sudanese bank operating in Chad, banned all financial transactions between the two countries and said it was designating Libya to represent its interests in Sudan.
It also banned Sudanese music from being played.—Sapa-AFP
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