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UN dismisses bin Laden call to oppose Darfur

Written by: Staff

United Nations, Apr 25: UN diplomats brushed aside today a call by Osama bin Laden for Muslims to rise up against the West in Sudan, and vowed to go ahead with plans to send peacekeepers to the embattled Darfur region.

''The comments made by this guy (are) always, always negative. We should not be influenced by whatever comments he made,'' said Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, the Security Council president for April.

US Ambassador John Bolton said: ''That's a mark of bin Laden's desperation and certainly won't affect our planning.'' The al Qaeda leader, in an audio tape broadcast on Al Jazeera television, said the United States and Britain, by pushing for a U.N. force in Darfur, were plotting to dismember Sudan. He urged his followers to rise up against them.

''I call on the mujahideen and their supporters in Sudan ... and the Arabian peninsula to prepare all that is necessary to wage a long-term war against the Crusaders in western Sudan,'' bin Laden said.

He called the United Nations an ''infidel body'' and ''a tool to implement Crusader-Zionist resolutions'' including measures aimed at dividing and occupying Muslim lands.

The Sudanese government, which hosted bin Laden in the 1990s before expelling him, is resisting pressure for UN peacekeepers to deploy in Darfur later this year. The UN mission would take over from an underfunded African Union force that has failed to end violence and protect civilians there.

The fighting in Darfur pits Muslim against Muslim. It began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab tribes rose up against the government, accusing it of neglect.

The Sudanese government retaliated by arming Arab Janjaweed militia, which unleashed a campaign of murder, rape, arson and plunder that drove more than 2 million villagers from their homes into squalid camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad.

Khartoum denies responsibility.

UN chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body felt no need to respond to bin Laden's comments but would do whatever was required to ensure its staff's safety in Sudan.

''The people in Darfur are clearly in need of protection and of humanitarian assistance, and the international community's efforts are aimed at that,'' he told reporters.

About 250 UN international staffers are now in Darfur, all of them civilians. Planning for the peacekeeping force is taking place mainly in New York as Sudan's government last week refused to issue visas to a UN military planning mission.


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