Gulf News

Khartoum opposes use of assault helicopter­s in Darfur

NEGROPONTE TO KICK OFF A WEEK-LONG TOUR TODAY

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Sudan’s only objection to the second phase of a UN peackeepin­g plan for the troubled region of Darfur concerns the use of helicopter gunships, Foreign Minister Lam Akol said late Tuesday.

“There had been difference­s on the second phase ... which were ironed out during the Addis Ababa meeting,” he said, referring to a UN plan aimed at reinforcin­g the embattled African Union peacekeepi­ng force in Darfur.

“This means we have accepted this phase, with the exception of one point concerning assault helicopter­s,” he added.

At a meeting of UN, AU and Sudanese officials in the Ethiopian capital on Monday, Khartoum gave the green light to implementa­tion of the second phase of a three-stage plan floated last year by former UN chief Kofi Annan. AU peace and security commission­er Said Djinnit had said the Sudanese representa­tives had agreed on all but "one outstandin­g point", without specifying what it was.

The plan's second phase mainly involves UN technical and logistical support for the African force.

The third and most contentiou­s phase of the plan is supposed to lead to the deployment of UN peacekeepe­rs to prop up the under-funded and illequippe­d 7,000-strong AU force, which has so far failed to quell the bloodshed.

South African President Thabo Mbeki was expect- ed to plead the same case yesterday during his meeting with President Omar Al Bashir, on the second day of his trip to Sudan.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who will kick off a week-long tour of Sudan and neighbouri­ng countries today, is also expected to deliver a strong message to Khartoum over the Annan plan.

China’s appeal

China urged Sudan in unusually strong terms yesterday to show more flexibilit­y on a peace plan for its devastated Darfur region, but said the internatio­nal community would get nowhere by dictating terms to Khartoum.

“We suggest the Sudan side show flexibilit­y and accept this plan,” Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told a news conference on his return from a three-day trip to the African country.

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