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Friday, May 28, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
U.S. seeks deal with Libya to aid Sudan province
By Seattle Times news services
The administration has been undertaking costly airlifts of assistance to Sudan's Darfur province and is seeking land routes as an alternative. Libya has a common border with Sudan, as does Chad, with which U.S. officials also have had discussions.
If an agreement with Libya can be worked out, U.S. food would be sent to a Libyan port and transferred to the custody of the World Food Program for delivery to Darfur.
There is increasing alarm about the fate of the more than 1 million people in Darfur who have been uprooted, victims in a 15-month struggle between government-backed Arab militias and regional black tribes.
U.S. officials have been highlighting the plight of the displaced Sudanese, mindful that the world's inattention to Rwanda a decade ago may have contributed to the genocide that occurred there.
The U.S. also will ask the United Nations next week to begin work on the deployment of thousands of peacekeeping troops to Sudan.
Andrew Natsios, administrator of the Agency for International Development, said AID estimates suggest 350,000 Sudanese could die in the next nine months.
In a telephone interview, Natsios said foot-dragging by the Sudanese government in allowing humanitarian access to the area has greatly hampered relief efforts.
The unfolding humanitarian crisis in Darfur has eclipsed one of the Bush administration's most important foreign-policy achievements in Africa: brokering an agreement to end a 21-year civil war in Sudan that has left more than 2 million dead.
Khartoum's Muslim government and the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, based in the country's Christian and animist south, initialed a landmark revenue- and power-sharing pact in Naivasha, Kenya, on Wednesday.
The move is the first step toward signing a comprehensive peace accord, possibly at a White House ceremony.
That agreement, however, does not address the conflict that has led to the crisis in Darfur, a western province the size of France.
The latest round of violence there began in February, when two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, took up arms. The government responded by organizing Arab militias called the Janjaweed and launching an ethnic-cleansing campaign against civilians suspected of supporting the rebels.
Rebels also took up arms in the west to demand a fairer share of power and Sudan's resources.
Sudan produces about 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day, a figure that is expected to rise to 500,000 barrels by mid-2005.
U.S. willingness to seek out Libyan cooperation reflects the progress that the nation's ties with Libya have made in recent months. Libya's decision last December to dispose of its deadliest weapons has transformed the relationship dramatically. The two countries are in the process of establishing normal diplomatic relations.
Natsios said U.S. officials have been in touch with Libya via U.N. and Belgian government channels.
Compiled from The Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg News and The Washington Post.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
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