20 June 2011

Sudan Re-Accuses Darfur Rebel Groups of Fighting On Side of Libyan Leader

Khartoum — Sudan Foreign Minister Ali Karti has reiterated accusations that armed groups from his country's western region of Darfur are fighting alongside the beleaguered regime of Libyan leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi.

As the uprising in Libya against Gaddafi's 41-year rule started to gain traction in mid-February, Libyan revolutionaries-turned-armed-rebels claimed that Gaddafi was using "African mercenaries" to fight them.

Sudan foreign ministry spokesman Khalid Musa on 20 February suggested that some elements from Darfur could be involved in the fighting, but he fell short of confirming it, saying that the competent authorities were still in the process of ascertaining these reports.

Addressing the country's national parliament on Monday, Foreign Minister Ali Karti was asked by one of the MPs from the opposition Popular Congress Party on the veracity of previous statements by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Darfur rebel groups were participating in the fighting on the side of Gaddafi's forces.

The top Sudanese diplomat readily confirmed the accusation, saying it was made on basis of investigations conducted by his ministry. Karti strongly denied that his ministry's accusation had caused harm to any Sudanese citizens in Libya.

"We have not received any information on a single Sudanese assaulted due to this statement. There are still tens of thousands of Sudanese in Libya and those who had incidents had it because they were present in the areas of fighting," he said.

Sudan's relationship with its neighbour Libya has seen ups and downs, but it plummeted in May last year after Libya provided sanctuary to the leader of Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement, Khalil Ibrahim, after he was shunned by his erstwhile allies in Chad. Sudan closed its shared borders with Libya in response to the harbouring of Khalil, only to re-open them again to receive citizens fleeing the unrest in eastern Libya.

Sudanese officials only summoned the courage to come out with their accusation against Libya of supporting Darfur rebel groups after the uprising against Gaddafi started.

Karti told the parliament that the government had known for a long time that Libya was the main supporter of rebellion in Darfur, saying that Tripoli had supplied them with arms and setup training camps for them in eastern and southern Libya.

In a related vein, Karti said that the Libyan government had asked Sudan not to close its embassy in Tripoli.

In April this year, Sudan asked the Libyan consulate in Darfur to vacate its offices and leave the country in retaliation for Tripoli's decision to expel Sudanese diplomats Libya's southeastern town of Al-Kufrah.

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