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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 April, 2004, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Sudan denies atrocities in Darfur
UNHCR aid worker in Touloum (photo: UNHCR/H.Caux)
Refugees in Chad have told of arbitrary killings and rape
Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail has acknowledged some human rights violations in the troubled western Darfur region.

But he denied there had been any ethnic cleansing or collective extermination.

He told reporters his government had "nothing to hide" from a UN team which is in Sudan to investigate reports of alleged atrocities in the region.

He spoke after Khartoum welcomed the UN Human Rights Committee's watered down statement on Darfur.

In the resolution adopted on Friday, the committee expressed "grave concern" over the situation in Darfur, but did not go into details about the targeting of civilians by the Arab militias in Sudan, or mention rape, sexual assault and forced removals of black communities in the area.

The United States had pushed for a much harder hitting resolution criticising Sudanese government abuses.

The Sudanese government is trying to delay the day of reckoning
Jemera Rone
Human Rights Watch

Critics say this is a considerable climb-down by the UN and the resolution was voted against by the US.

"We fear a terrible famine to come when tens of thousands may well perish," the US envoy Richard Williamson said. "The commission so far has failed to meet its responsibility today."

He said once a UN investigation team had submitted its report, he would ask delegates to reconvene in a special session to consider further action.

The UN says more than 10,000 people have been killed and over one million displaced over the past year as a result of conflict in Darfur.

Delaying tactics

Sudan has been accused of delaying the UN team's trip to Darfur to prevent evidence of atrocities coming under discussion.

Map of Sudan
Jemera Rone of Human Rights Watch told BBC News Online: "The Sudanese government is playing games with the international community, trying to delay the day of reckoning and prevent any systematic monitoring of its atrocities in Darfur."

The UN secretary general himself has talked of his sense of foreboding over the situation in Darfur, drawing parallels with the situation before the Rwandan genocide.

Failing talks

Talks in neighbouring Chad aimed at ending the fighting are reported to be making little progress.

Mr Ismail told reporters that the talks started on Saturday after an envoy from the African Union arrived in Chad.

But the two rebel groups - the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) - have threatened to withdraw form the talks.

They accuse the government of consistently breaking a recently agreed ceasefire by bombing villages and backing an Arab militia in the area.

Sudan has denied carrying out military operations against the rebels during the ceasefire but has said rebels have attacked government troops.

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