Sudan: Gaddafi Was Top Supporter of Darfur Rebels - Official

Khartoum — The chairman of Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA) slammed the beleaguered Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and accused him of being the top supporter of the rebel groups who took arms since 2003 against the central government.

West Darfur governor Al-Shertai Ga'far Abdel-Hakam who is also the TDRA head told a forum organized by the National Union of Sudanese youth that Gaddafi provided money and weaponry to rebels in the region as well as the East and the South.

He provided no details to back his claims. However, he is the first high ranking Sudanese official to go on the record with these allegations that his peers made privately for years.

A failed by attempt by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in May 2008 to take over the capital was blamed on Libyan and French backing. Sudanese media quoted government sources at the time as saying that the financing of the operation was made through the Libyan Sahel-Saharan bank.

Libya is currently hosting JEM leader Ibrahim Khalil after being refused entry by the Chadian authorities last year where he was based. Sudan has sought without success to have Libya expel him.

However, it was Gaddafi that pushed the African Union (AU) to grant Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir immunity from arrest in the continent despite an arrest warrant against him issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in Darfur war crimes.

Gaddafi is fighting an armed rebellion that initially started as a popular uprising in mid-February. The Libyan opposition managed to control most of the Eastern side of the country. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) this month authorized a No-Fly Zone over Libya and using all necessary means to protect civilians.

Diplomats at the UN told Reuters last week that Sudan has quietly granted permission for coalition aircraft to use its airspace for enforcement of the No-Fly Zone.

The Sudanese president is heading on Tuesday to Qatar for talks with the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

The Arab Gulf state is hosting peace talks between Khartoum and Darfur rebels for several years but so far little progress was made. Diplomats tell Sudan tribune that Qatari officials are frustrated with what they see as Khartoum's willingness to offer meaningful concessions for a final peace accord.

Specifically the rebels have asked for unifying the three Darfur states as one and giving a Darfuri the post of Vice president something which was categorically rejected by the Sudanese government.

A proposal by Khartoum to hold a referendum before May on Darfur's administrative status, and how it should be governed came under fire from rebels who said it will make negotiations pointless.

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