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Sudanese President Appears To Step Back from Peace Commitments

13 March 2007

State Department says President Bashir using "delaying tactics" on Darfur

Washington -- The Bush administration is “extremely troubled” by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s recent letter to the United Nations, in which he appears to back away from prior commitments to the Darfur peace agreement, according to State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey.

In a 14-page letter to the world body, President Bashir reportedly argued against plans to augment African Union (AU) troops with a hybrid AU-U.N. force that would help implement the peace framework established in November 2006 by leaders meeting at the AU's headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

An estimated 200,000 people have died in Darfur's four-year conflict, and millions more have been displaced.

Casey told reporters March 13 that it is “troubling” that Bashir now is trying to select which elements of the interim plan, known as the “heavy package,” to help implement after he already had agreed to the deployment of the hybrid force.

The heavy support package “is something that's been worked out by the AU with the United Nations, and it's what the AU thinks is necessary to be able to support the mission,” Casey said, and the United States believes the package “needs to be provided for as soon as possible” to help the AU perform its peacekeeping functions.

The deputy spokesman added that the United States and others will need to “think seriously about implementing additional measures to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Darfur,” if the Sudanese government continues efforts to “frustrate” the implementation of the Darfur peace agreement.

Casey warned that there is “growing impatience” on the part of the international community with Sudanese “delaying tactics.”

“I think the patience of the international community is limited, and I think that we, unfortunately, may be approaching a time when other steps will have to be taken,” he said.  “The benchmark for us has always been whether the Sudanese government is permitting the implementation of the hybrid force to move forward.”

Casey acknowledged that troop contributions still are needed for the hybrid force and called for countries to “make the commitments necessary” to implement the three-phase deployment plan.  (See related article.)

However, “for right now what is unfortunate is, regardless of the limitations on the commitments already made, … Sudan [is] taking a step back from its willingness to cooperate and implement this package,” he said.

He also said there has been continued violence, some of it from some rebel factions, and called upon all sides to obey the terms of the cease-fire.  Those who have not signed on to the Darfur peace agreement should do so and adhere to it, he urged.

“The only real way to achieve a lasting solution in Darfur is to have all sides sit down and work out the kind of agreement that ultimately was achieved between the North and the South in Sudan,” Casey said. That also involves moving forward on the deployment of the hybrid force, he added.

A senior State Department official said the first page of Bashir’s letter contained an acceptance of the need to deploy the heavy support package in Darfur, but the bulk of the 13 pages that followed “are spent walking away from a commitment to the full package and delineating parts of it that they don’t like, and raising concerns and exemptions.”

The official said that even though an overwhelmingly positive position by Sudan toward the deployment of the force was not expected, “I think people were surprised by exactly how far of a pulling back this represents.”

The hybrid AU-U.N. force agreed to in Addis Ababa would be deployed in three phases.  The first, consisting of 185 troops, would provide mainly technical expertise.

In phase two, approximately 1,000 individuals would set up headquarters and other infrastructure as “an enabling force” for the main body of the more than 15,000 troops who would arrive as phase three.

“Up until now, you’ve been able to say that there’s been cooperation from the Sudanese government in implementing the Addis agreement through phase one.  This was sort of the next step in the process, and … it’s awfully hard to see how you can move forward with phase two under the terms that were laid out in that letter,” the official said.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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