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Allegations of Sudanese Support for Uganda Rebel Group Unlikely to Affect Military Protocol

Uganda says fresh allegations that the Sudanese government is supporting a rebel movement operating in northern Uganda are unlikely to affect a military protocol between the two countries.

A military offensive known as Operation Iron Fist was launched by the Ugandan army last year to try to track down members of the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that has been waging war in the north for the past 16 years.

Key to the military initiative is a protocol between the Ugandan and Sudanese governments that allows the Ugandan army to enter southern Sudan in search of Lord's Resistance Army rebels. The protocol is renewed every few months.

But the two countries have periodically fought a war of words over the issue. The Ugandan government accuses Sudan of supporting the Lord's Resistance Army, while the Sudanese government alleges Uganda is supporting a rebel group known as the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

Some observers are now suggesting that Uganda might not renew the protocol because of an allegation made earlier this week by a Lord's Resistance Army defector, that the Sudanese government is giving the rebels arms and food, and that several hundred rebels crossed over into southern Sudan.

But Ugandan army spokesman Shaban Bantariza told VOA that these latest developments would not affect the protocol's renewal. "Both of us need it. I do not see anybody trying to break it. It will continue in spite of these activities that really are in bad spirit," he said.

He alleged that the Sudan army is helping rebel leader Joseph Kony, a self-declared prophet who at one time said he wanted to rule Uganda according to the Biblical Ten Commandments. "They give them land mines, they give them grenades, they give them rifles, they give them machine guns, all that," he said.

Sudan's ambassador to Uganda, Sirajjudin Hamid Yusuf, was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to contact him.

In press reports, he has denied that the Sudanese government is backing the rebels, saying the group is an enemy of Sudan.

He said the Sudanese government gave the Ugandan government a report several weeks ago showing that Sudan was not arming the rebels.