Sudan: UN clears government of genocide
Sudan's foreign minister said Monday a U.N. report concluded that no genocide was committed in his country's Darfur region, where tens of thousands of civilians have died in a nearly two-year crisis.
The United States has accused Sudan's government of directing militia who attack civilians in what Washington has called a genocidal campaign in the western region.
"We have a copy of that report and they didn't say that there is a genocide," Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said on the sidelines of an African Union summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Last year, the United Nations said the Darfur conflict created the world's worst humanitarian crisis. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Sunday a report on the situation would be forwarded to Security Council members "very shortly."
Annan declined to say whether the team made a determination that genocide was committed.
"Regardless of how the commission describes what is going on in Darfur, there is no doubt that serious crimes have been committed," he said.
U.S. diplomats at the United Nations said recently they would make proposals to the Security Council to bring the perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur to justice.
Also Monday, Sudan's government and Darfur rebels said they will reopen long-stalled peace talks in Nigeria in February. Three previous peace conferences and a cease-fire agreement have failed to calm the violence.
Both Osman and representatives of allied Sudanese rebel groups the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement said they would attend the latest meetings, which a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity were scheduled to begin the third week of February in Abuja.
The most recent peace conference began Dec. 11 in Abuja, but rebels boycotted meetings with government delegates two days later, alleging a new government offensive. The talks broke down entirely within weeks.
The Justice and Equality Movement, the smaller insurgent group, would attend the talks if AU negotiators treated them fairly and were "serious and objective," Khalil Ibrahim Mohammed, a top rebel official, said Monday.
He added that insurgent leaders wanted a new mediator for the talks.
"America and the European Union must come forward," he said by phone from Eritrea.
The Darfur conflict began in February 2003 when the two rebel groups took up arms against what they considered years of state neglect and discrimination against Sudanese of African origin.
The government responded with a counterinsurgency campaign in which an Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, committed wide-scale abuses against the African population. An estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced in the conflict, and more than 70,000 people are believed to have died from hunger and disease since March.