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AU Chief Blasts Attempts to Sanction Sudan for Darfur Issue
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Visiting African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare dismissed attempts by some nations to slap sanctions on Sudan for the Darfur issue, saying time was "not appropriate at all for such a talk".

After meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Konare told a press conference that any sanction on Sudan for the Darfur issue could complicate the situation.

"What is strange is that some sides start talking about sanctions at a time when an agreement is reached with the Sudanese government," Konare said, quoted by Egypt's official MENA news agency.

Some members of the UN Security Council, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, have been discussing imposing sanctions against Sudan for the Darfur issue.

Konare said the AU has, after long months, managed to reach an agreement with Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir, which allows to increase the number of foreign peacekeepers in Darfur to 20,000.

These forces will be under the command of the AU but will include soldiers from the UN, he said, adding the AU currently maintained a 7,800-strong peacekeeping force in Darfur.
The AU, the UN and the Sudanese government agreed last November on a three-phase support plan, also known as the Annan plan as it was put forward by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

With the first phase of the plan, also known as a light support package, already underway, Sudan announced on April 16 that it approved the inauguration of the second phase, also known as "the heavy support phase."

The second phase involves the deployment of 3,000 UN troops and six attack helicopters in Darfur to support the 7,800-strong African force, as well as preparation for the next phase, in which a much larger UN force would be sent to the region.

Konare also said the situation in Somalia was very serious, warning of the grave consequences if this situation was not put under control.

He called for encouraging a political dialogue in Somalia to back the Somali government. "Only Somalis would be able to settle their problems," Konare stressed.

(Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2007)

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