The Bush administration said Friday the nearly $1 billion in new aid it plans to commit to Sudan reconstruction at next week's donor conference in Oslo will not go to the current government in Khartoum. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick will head the U.S delegation in Oslo, and then visit Sudan including the war-torn western Darfur region.
U.S. plans to boost aid to Sudan at a time when the Khartoum government is vowing not to cooperate with international prosecution of war crimes in Darfur has drawn some expressions of surprise and criticism.
But officials here are stressing that the envisaged new aid will be earmarked for distribution by relief agencies, and aimed at helping implement the north-south Sudan peace accord signed in Nairobi last January that is to bring a new unity government to power in Khartoum.
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick will head the U.S. delegation at the Sudan donors conference that opens in Oslo next Monday, and then head to Sudan for the first visit by a senior U.S. official since former Secretary of State Colin Powell went there last June.
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Zoellick will announce a significant U.S. pledge, understood to be $900 million, at the conference, where Norwegian organizers hope to raise nearly $3 billion overall.
Mr. Boucher said the new pledge will be on top of the $1.6 billion the United States has committed to relief aid and conflict resolution in Sudan since 2003. He said like the previous aid, the new money will be channeled through non-governmental groups to boost the Nairobi accord, not the coffers of the Khartoum government.
"We've worked very hard with NGO's and aid agencies, international donors, to get assistance to the people in Darfur," he said. "We're going to be supporting the creation of a new governmental mechanism for Sudan that unites the nation, and that offers opportunity for everybody. We think that's very important. That's not the same as supporting the existing government."
A senior official who briefed reporters here said Mr. Zoellick will meet Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and southern rebel leader John Garang in Oslo and push both prospective partners in the new Sudanese government to end violence in Darfur.
In Sudan, the Deputy Secretary will hold talks with officials of the Islamic government in Khartoum, with southern authorities in the regional town of Rumbek, and pay a visit to Darfur to meet officials of the African Union observer force deploying there.
The senior U.S. official said large-scale organized violence has diminished significantly in Darfur in the last three months amid international pressure capped by three U.N. Security Council resolutions.
But he said the situation remains complex, and few of the nearly 2.5 million people displaced by the conflict have been able to return to their homes.
The official said the Nairobi accord, with its provision for autonomy for southern Sudan, provides a model for resolving the Darfur conflict, which has pitted local rebels against the Sudanese government and Arab militia allies.
However he said implementation of the north-south agreement is behind schedule and that Mr. Zoellick will press the sides for timely implementation.
The peace accord provides for an independence vote by the mainly Christian and animist south after six years of autonomy.
But the U.S. official said the southern leader, Mr. Garang, supports continued unity for the country, and that partition of Sudan in the United States' view, would be disastrous.
The official also held out the prospect of fully-normalized relations between the United States and Sudan, if the Khartoum government heeds Security Council resolutions on Darfur and implements the Nairobi accord.