Sudan says world’s poor face ‘blackmail’ by rich

Sudan’s president, accused of genocide in Darfur by the West, said rich countries were bullying the planet’s poorest states into accepting bad terms of trade and warned of a ”looming Cold War”.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who faces a possible International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment for war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur, used an African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) summit to criticise ”power politics” in international relations.

”Small and poor states, which constitute the majority of ACP membership, are exposed to threats of aggression, interference, subversion, blackmail, pressures of all kinds and the dicta of the rich and the powerful,” al-Bashir, the outgoing chairperson of the ACP group, said in a speech to the summit in Ghana.

He and his successor, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, called on the 79 nations of the ACP group, which has a population of more than 300-million and includes some of the poorest countries, to unite to confront the challenges of globalisation.

These included seeking a common position to negotiate trade with the European Union, which buys more than a quarter of the group’s exports, and trying to improve the terms of trade for developing nations within the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

ACP unity has been undermined by some members which, under pressure from Brussels and worried about being excluded from the EU market, have signed economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the bloc, while others hold out for better terms.

The first of these deals are to be concluded on October 15.

”Embarrassingly, some of our members have been caught, on the one hand, between the non-fulfilment of the [WTO] Doha Round, which would have created a fairer trading system; and the resort to trading arrangements such as the EPAs with the EU, on the other, which tend to undermine our regional integration efforts,” said Kufuor, whose country has inked an interim deal.

Al-Bashir, who gave his speech in Arabic, was more blunt.

”The EPA negotiations have proved that no meaningful economic partnership could be achieved in the absence of real reform in current international monetary trading systems,” he said, calling for ”collective bargaining” by the ACP group.

Many developing world leaders and anti-poverty campaigners say the EPAs have weakened the ACP group’s capacity to win better trade terms from the EU that would help protect their often vulnerable, commodity-exporting economies.

Threat to stability
Al-Bashir, who said earlier that the ICC prosecutor’s bid to indict him threatened to derail peace talks to end civil war in Darfur, predicted an increase in global political tensions.

”The simmering signs of Cold War looming on the horizon may jeopardise the whole international stability,” he said.

Al-Bashir did not mention the United States or Russia, but criticised the US-led war on terror underpinning Washington’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

”The declared war on terrorism, in the absence of a concrete definition of the phenomenon, blurs the dividing line between the legitimate rights of self-defence, resistance against occupation on the one hand, and criminal acts and conduct on the other,” he said.

Kufuor, in his speech, urged the ACP states to work together to tackle terrorism, climate change, higher oil and food prices and the problems of migration, racism and intolerance.

Anti-poverty and fair-trade campaigners said the disparate ACP group urgently needed to find a common voice.

”There is still space within this summit for the ACP heads of state to make a strong political decision to stand together as a political group,” said Deborah Scott, policy adviser for the pan-African lobby group Acord.

”If that does not happen, the ACP will likely lose significant relevance as a grouping; without a unified trade relationship with Europe, there will be little that they hold in common,” she added. — Reuters

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