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U.S. envoy says Sudan bombing civilians in Darfur

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« on: July 13, 2007, 01:21:48 pm »

U.S. envoy says Sudan bombing civilians in Darfur
Story Highlights
U.S. envoy to Darfur tells government to stop bombing immediately

Andrew Natsios also accuses rebels of deliberately blocking peace process

Khartoum signed ceasefire with two main rebel groups but violence continues

Natsios says some rebel groups "descending into warlordism and criminality"
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KHARTOUM, Sudan (Reuters) -- The top U.S. envoy for Darfur on Friday accused the Sudanese government of bombing civilian targets in its war-ravaged western region and rebels of cynically obstructing international efforts to end the conflict.

U.S. special envoy to Darfur, Andrew Natsios, talks to reporters after his visit to the region in Sudan on Friday.

 Andrew Natsios told a news conference in Khartoum following a visit to Darfur that both sides were to blame for the conflict that has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"After a halt in the bombing between the beginning of February and the end of April in 2007, the Sudanese government has resumed bombing in Darfur," Natsios said.

"This should end, and the ceasefire that was agreed to sometime ago should be respected. We urge the Sudanese government to end all bombing in Darfur immediately," he said.

Khartoum signed a ceasefire agreement with the two main rebel groups in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement, in 2004, but violence has continued.

A May 2006 Darfur peace deal was signed by only one rebel faction. Since then, rebels have split into a dozen groups.

"Some of them are descending into warlordism and criminality and this is not a good trend in Darfur, which is all the more reason why we need to accelerate the political process for a peace agreement," Natsios said.

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"Some rebel leaders are cynically obstructing the peace process and the United States government is very disturbed by this. It needs to end now," he continued.

Natsios said the bombing by the Sudanese military focused on the Jebel Marra region, a strong-hold of Abdul Wahid Mohammed Nour, leader of a faction of one of the Darfur rebel groups, and other targets in West and North Darfur.

"I think there were four attacks in Jebel Marra Mountains. We are troubled by this, because these have been stable areas before," the U.S. envoy said.

"And there had been other bombings I think in West Darfur and North Darfur of civilian targets," he added.

The Sudanese military could not be immediately reached for comment.Natsios also said the United States was disturbed by reports that the Sudanese government was deliberately trying to change Darfur's demography by settling non-Sudanese Arab tribes there.

"It is a very provocative action that concerns us all and will complicate any future political process for reconciliation in Sudan and particularly in Darfur," he said.

"Because when a settlement is reached and people go back to their homes and they find out someone is living on their land and farming it, this will simply create a new war."

The U.S. envoy's comments came as Britain, France and Ghana circulated a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council for a joint African Union-U.N. force for Darfur, which also threatened force against those who attack civilians, relief workers and obstruct peace efforts.

The resolution, expected to be adopted this month, allows the U.N. to formally recruit troops for the mission.

Under sustained international pressure, Sudan agreed last month to a combined U.N.-AU peacekeeping force of more than 20,000 troops and police to bolster the cash-strapped AU force of 7,000 already operating in Darfur.

The AU troops have failed to stem the violence.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died as a result of ethnic and political conflict in Darfur since it flared in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms after accusing the central government of neglect.

Washington calls the violence genocide, and blames the government and its allied militia. Khartoum rejects the term and says only 9,000 have died. E-mail to a friend

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