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Sudanese Army Declares UN Resolution 'Act of War' - 2004-08-02

Sudanese army officials on Monday blasted a United Nations resolution giving the Khartoum government 30 days to rein in militia forces that have massacred tens of thousands of black Africans in the country's western Darfur region.

In what appears to be a split in Sudan's official reaction to the U.N. Security Council's 30-day deadline to disarm Arab militias in Darfur, the country's army declared Monday that the U.N. resolution was an "act of war."

But the Khartoum government, facing the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions, has reluctantly agreed to the 30-day deadline. At the same time, Sudan's officials expressed doubts about whether its defense forces could disarm the militias, known as the Janjaweed, within the U.N. timeframe.

Osman al-Said, Sudan's ambassador to the African Union, speaking by telephone from AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, says it is a question of feasibility.

"While we are accepting it, the implementation in one month is going to be difficult. It's not going to be practical to implement," he said. "It's the rainy season in Darfur. Movement is going to be very difficult. Arresting the Janjaweed army and controlling them, it's not something easy."

Analysts say the Sudanese government is hoping the U.N. will extend the deadline to 90 days, in line with a previous agreement between Sudan and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

But with up to 50,000 people already dead and an estimated 1.2 million people displaced by the fighting and in dire need of food aid and medicine, Western leaders are pressuring Sudan for a quick end to the Darfur crisis.

Despite Khartoum's claim that it has begun cracking down on militia forces, reports are still coming in of attacks against black Africans in Sudan. Western analysts and international human rights groups question Sudan's sincerity in stopping the very forces that, they suspect, the government armed in the first place as a proxy army to put down a 2003 uprising.

To help monitor Sudan's compliance with the U.N. deadline and to assist humanitarian aid to the region, the AU has sent the first contingent of a 300-strong peacekeeping force. France has stationed 200 troops in Chad near the Sudanese border and British officials say they are prepared to send troops, if needed.

The buildup of foreign troops, analysts believe, was the reason Sudan's army said the 30-day deadline was a pretext for a foreign invasion of Sudan.

Army spokesman General Mohamed Beshir Suleiman told Sudan's official daily newspaper, Al Anbaa, that the army is ready to confront what he called the enemies of Sudan. He went on to say: "The door of the jihad is still open, and if it has been closed in the south, it will be opened in the west."

Ambassador al-Said was asked whether he agreed with General Suleiman's statement that the U.N. resolution amounted to an "act of war."

"No. We are bound by what the council of ministers decided yesterday," he said.

The general view is the government will prevail and that Sudan will at least begin to disarm the Janjaweed by the end of August.