March 17, 2007 (CAIRO) — Egypt on Saturday opposed sanctions on Sudan over Khartoum’s refusal to allow thousands of international peacekeepers into its war-ravaged Darfur region.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he had sent letters to the U.N. Security Council permanent members, the African Union and the European Union urging them to “deal positively” with a letter sent by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Darfur issue.
U.N. officials said the letter listed a variety of conditions to approve the world body’s plan to bolster the African Union’s under-funded 7,000-member force now in Darfur.
The letter prompted Britain to urge the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to impose sanctions on Sudan. The United States said the following day it was planning new sanctions against Khartoum, including restrictions on companies that do business there in U.S. dollars.
“The minister called all parties to continue dialogue to ease the hurdles and warned against the consequences of the so-called ‘Plan-B’ that include talks about imposing sanctions on Sudan,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Egypt, which borders Sudan, has blamed the violence in Darfur on rebel groups that had rejected a May 2006 peace deal. The ministry said Aboul Gheit’s letter urged the U.N. Security Council to work on reaching a political settlement that would include the non-signatory rebel groups to the peace agreement.
Experts estimate around 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million fled their homes since the conflict flared in 2003 when rebel groups took up arms against the central government, charging it with neglect. Khartoum says only 9,000 died.
Bashir’s letter was responding to a Jan. 24 letter from Ban, which spelled out plans for an interim “heavy package” of some U.N. 3,000 personnel, mainly engineers, logistics and medical units as well as helicopter pilots. That group would plan for a African Union-U.N. force of more than 22,000 troops and police.