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Sudan Irked by UN Resolution

Sudanese government officials are unhappy with the UN resolution calling on it to do more to solve the problems of its Darfur region. A military official went so far as to describe it as a "declaration of war."

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Sudan's foreign minister called the resolution's deadline "illogical"

Government officials in Khartoum said they cannot meet the 30-day deadline set by the United Nations to disarm the Janjaweed militias who are accused of a campaign of murder and rape against the people of Sudan's southwestern Darfur region. The militia members are alleged to enjoy government support as part of their battle against rebels in the region.

Sudan's foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, described the deadline as "illogical" and said Sudan would implement a 90-day program agreed earlier with the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. He said the new urgency required by the West could be linked to "elections taking place in some western countries" or to its "guilty conscience over failing to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda."

Other Sudanese officials have been even more outspoken. The army spokesman, Mohammed Bashir Suleiman, described the motion as an "American declaration of war" and said the Sudanese army was prepared to confront the enemies of Sudan on land, sea and air.

Easing or worsening the conflict?

Adam Thaim, spokesman for the African Union, said he had some understanding for the Sudanese annoyance. He added that the resolution came at a sensitive time.

Flüchtlinge im Sudan warten auf Essensausgabe

Sudanese displaced woman line up to receive

"The pressure on the Sudanese government was beginning to work," he said. "The Sudanese government is fully aware of the risk of a bigger humanitarian tragedy in Darfur. The conflict is not really escalating, the conflict is instead easing and it is in this meantime that the UN resolution came out so I can understand -- without justifying -- the position of the government of Sudan."

But there is a feeling in Europe and the US that the Sudanese government is once more trying to avoid its international obligations.

A spokesman for the US State Department, Adam Ereli, said that there was no excuse for not taking action now. The resolution was not a declaration of war, he said, but simply a demand that Sudan fulfil commitments it has already made to disarm the militias.

Germany responds to criticism

German Deputy Foreign Minister Kerstin Müller meanwhile defended her country's position in the conflict in an open letter to the editor of the Wa shington Post on Monday. The US paper had criticized European countries in a previous editorial for not doing enough to resolve the problem.

Müller countered that Germany first introduced discussions about the Darfur conflict to the UN Security Council during the country's presidency of that body in April. She added that the EU has pledged more than $260 million (€216 million) to help refugees and that Germany also has earmarked more than $105 million for the reconstruction of Sudan after a peace agreement is signed.

Kerstin Müller Bündnis 90 Die Grünen

Kerstin Müller

Müller (photo) described the resolution as an important step in helping to resolve the conflict.

"Germany will do whatever is in its power to stop the violations of human rights in Sudan and to solve the humanitarian crisis and the political conflict in Darfur and elsewhere in that country," Müller wrote. "It will support all efforts to find a political solution to the underlying problems. This also would be an important contribution to our common fight against terrorism."

A long term strategy needed

Thaim of the African Union also argued that there's a need for a long term strategy.

"The disarmament of Janjaweed militias, the investigation into human rights violations, are conditions to peace, but they are not the only conditions to peace," Thaim said. "The Darfur problem is more complex than that. You have land issues, you have sociological issues, you have religious issues. It's very complicated and I think that what we should go towards is political dialogues for Darfur."

Thaim added that the African Union had started such a dialogue, but said that talks were regrettably suspended because the rebels were being inflexible.

UN Food Program needs more money

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Program has begun dropping aid to isolated areas of Darfur from the air, as a response to the lack of security on the ground and the beginning of the rainy season.

But it said that it has received only half the funds it needs for emergency work in Darfur this year. About 2.2 million people are thought to be in need of food, medicine and other basics.

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