Darfur rebel leader says UN flies him to Chad

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KHARTOUM, Sep 15 (Reuters) Ailing Darfur rebel leader Suleiman Jamous said the United Nations flew him to Chad today, a day after ending his 15-month ordeal at a UN hospital in central Sudan.

Jamous, the humanitarian coordinator of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), was the key liaison between rebels and the world's largest aid operation, which has been helping some 4.2 million people in Darfur.

The United Nations had moved him to the hospital in the central town of Kadugli more than a year ago, without informing Khartoum. Sudan has called him a criminal and said it would arrest him if he left UN care.

However, Sudan gave the green light for Jamous to seek medical treatment abroad after a campaign by international activists, which culminated in a letter to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on July 30, signed by 11 prominent figures.

The United Nations yesterday flew Jamous, who needs a stomach biopsy, to Kenya but the rebel leader said health care there was not at a high enough level.

Jamous told Reuters said the United Nations then agreed to fly him to Chad, where he has relatives.

The United Nations was not immediately available to comment.

Jamous said he would meet friends and family to determine whether medical facilities in Chad were adequate to perform the operation and if not, he would try to get to Europe.

''I'm calling my friends in Europe to help me if there is any possibility of any European government inviting me for testing to diagnose my disease,'' he said by telephone from Chad.

Jamous is respected in Darfur and considered a consensus builder who could help peace efforts and unify rebel groups.

Peace negotiations between the government and the rebels are due to open on October 27 in Libya.

Jamous said he is in favour of the talks and he would attend if other rebel leaders invited him as part of their delegation.

''If we don't go to the peace talks, how are we going to end the suffering,'' Jamous said.

International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have fled their homes since 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms after accusing the central government of neglecting the arid region.

Khartoum mobilised Arab militias, called Janjaweed, to quell the revolt. Washington calls its actions genocide, but Khartoum rejects the term and says only 9,000 people have died.

REUTERS GL AS2212

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