|Sudan Arabs Attack U.S. Stand on Darfur 'Genocide'
By Nima Elbagir
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese Arabs on Friday attacked a U.S. congressional resolution describing atrocities in Darfur as "genocide," while people driven from their homes asked how Washington could make it safe for them to return.
"The international concern over Darfur is actually a targeting of the Islamic state in Sudan," Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, not commenting directly on the resolution, told a public meeting after Friday prayers south of Khartoum.
In Khartoum, 34-year-old driver Ismail Gasmalseed said: "Is Iraq not enough? Do they want to destroy us too? ...America wants everyone who is Arab to pay. They do not understand anything."
Rebels and human rights groups say Khartoum has armed and backed Arab militia known as the Janjaweed who have been forcing non-Arab African villagers off their land in Darfur in an extension of a long conflict over farmland and grazing.
Supporters of the resolution approved by the U.S. Congress on Thursday hope it will help mobilize the international community to protect Africans from the militias.
The accusation of "genocide" is highly controversial. The United Nations has declared the situation in Darfur the world's worst humanitarian crisis but has not called it a genocide, which would force it to take action.
The world body estimates that the 15-month-old conflict between Arab nomads and non-Arab farmers has killed at least 30,000 people and displaced more than a million, many of them driven from their homes by marauding Janjaweed militia.
A PLAN IN STAGES
The Bush administration has drafted a U.N. resolution threatening sanctions unless the Sudanese government disarms the Janjaweed and removes all restrictions on access to Darfur.
Russia, China, Pakistan and Algeria opposed the use of the word "sanctions" in the resolution on Friday, preferring only a threat of "further action," diplomats said.
The Sudanese government says it is trying to comply but it will take time to implement its plans.
"There exists a real problem which has to be resolved on a humanitarian, political and security level and we intend to do that," Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told the French daily Le Monde in an interview published on Friday.
"But one has to understand that we are applying a plan that is working in stages," he added.
Russia rejected U.S. criticism of its sales of MiG-29 fighter jets to Sudan on Friday. Russian news agencies quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying the sales had been based on a longstanding contract predating the Darfur unrest.
Tens of thousands of people are now threatened with hunger and disease in squalid, overcrowded refugee camps inside Sudan and over the border in Chad.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR reported on Friday that two refugees had died in an operation by Chad's army inside one of the camps close to the Sudanese border on Thursday. There was no immediate explanation for how the refugees died.
The agency said the troops had moved into the camp to stem unrest and find people involved in recent attacks on humanitarian workers.
AID AGENCIES TOLD ORDER RESTORED
Chad told international relief groups, including UNHCR, on Friday that order had been restored in two camps about 50 km (30 miles) from the Sudanese border and it was safe for aid workers to return. A UNHCR official said it would proceed cautiously.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier will visit Chad and Sudan's Darfur region next week to show support for an African Union observer mission, his ministry said on Friday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has called on the international community to take moral responsibility for resolving the crisis, is sending Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to the region next month.
But displaced Darfuris in Khartoum said they had doubts about the international community's commitment to intervene.
"We were told that the United Nations would make us safe, but we waited so long in Darfur and no one came to make us safe. I'm not sure if we will be safe," asked Khadija, an 18-year-old who said she was abducted by militiamen in Darfur but escaped.