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Sudan Warns International Pressure Could Threaten Darfur Negotiations  - 2004-09-09

A senior Sudanese government official says international pressure to bring peace to the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan may scuttle negotiations to end the violence.

The deputy speaker for Sudan's parliament, Angelo Beda, told reporters in Nairobi Thursday, efforts by the United States to call the Darfur conflict "genocide," and threats by the United Nations to impose sanctions against Sudan could stifle peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels.

Mr. Beda said talk of genocide and sanctions sends what he calls "the wrong signals" to the rebels and militias operating in Darfur.

"They say, 'what is the use? The United States will destroy Sudan now, and the U.N., they will put sanctions, and there [is] no need to talk with this government,'" Mr. Beda said.

According to human rights groups, the pro-government Arab militia, known as the "Janjaweed," is systematically attacking black African populations in Darfur, a charge the Sudanese government vehemently denies.

Negotiations between the rebels and the government are currently taking place in Nigeria, but are said to be on the verge of collapsing.

The U.N. Security Council is in the process of reviewing whether the Sudanese government has lived up to earlier commitments to disarm the Janjaweed, provide security to people living in Darfur and allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians.

The U.N. had given the Sudanese government until the end of August to fulfill these conditions, or face unspecified sanctions.

The U.S. government Wednesday submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations threatening oil sanctions against Sudan, unless the government stops human rights abuses and accepts more African Union peacekeepers in the area.

Mr. Beda told reporters he is confident that the United Nations will not impose sanctions against his country.

He also was asked about Wednesday's arrest of more than 30 members of the opposition party, Popular Congress. At least 14 of those arrested are accused of planning a coup against the government.

Mr. Beda said senior Popular Congress officials are also leaders in Darfur's two rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army.

"Most of the leaders of the Popular Congress come from Darfur, they come from the west," Mr. Beda explained. "And they have been causing a lot of problem to the government."

He said the Popular Congress members will face court appearances.

The party has denied involvement in a coup attempt, and says the government is using that as an excuse to crack down on the opposition.