- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

The Bush administration said yesterday that the rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region bear equal responsibility with government forces for a recent surge of violence, easing the pressure on the Khartoum regime.

Diplomats said the rebels’ latest actions are likely to complicate efforts by the United States and its European allies to gather wider international support for sanctions against the Sudanese government, which Washington has accused of genocide.

“We urge both sides, in the strongest terms, to cooperate fully with international humanitarian efforts,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

He accused both the government-supported Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, and the rebels of starting attacks after brief periods of quiet.

“The operations carried out by the government and related activity by the Janjaweed militias have caused untold suffering, displacing tens of thousands of people,” he said.

“At the same time, we want to emphasize that the Darfur rebel groups — the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement — must also respect the cease-fire agreement,” Mr. Boucher said.

U.S. estimates show that at least 70,000 people in Darfur have died and 2 million have been displaced since fighting erupted nearly two years ago.

The African Union (AU) has been mediating between the two sides at negotiations in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, but with limited success.

In addition, the AU has more than 800 troops in Darfur to monitor cease-fire violations.

Reports from South Darfur, which makes up about one-third of the Darfur region, said yesterday that the AU monitors had suspended operations in the area after one of their helicopters came under fire.

“To my knowledge, this suspension is only in South Darfur state,” a senior AU official was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Meanwhile, a previously unknown rebel group, the Sudanese National Movement for the Eradication of Marginalization, said it had attacked a South Darfur oil-pumping station.

Police said 15 persons died in the attack, but an oil ministry official in Khartoum said operations at the field had not been affected.

Sudan produces 320,000 barrels of crude oil a day and hopes to raise that amount to more than a half-million barrels next year.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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