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World blamed for prolonged Darfur conflict

EL-FASHER, October 15 – The commander of the UN-led peacekeeping force in Darfur says mistakes by the international community have prolonged the conflict and that there is no immediate prospect for peace.

General Martin Agwai’s comments come as the Sudanese government is set to launch an initiative on resolving the war, hoping to defer possible international legal proceedings against President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes.

"Honestly, I do not see any prospects for immediate peace in Darfur because there are too many interests," Agwai told the BBC and AFP in an interview at the headquarters of the United Nations-African Union mission in El-Fasher.

"There is also infighting between the movements and between all the stakeholders. With that I cannot see peace coming immediately," he added.

"When there is no agreement on even how to negotiate, then you can see it’s going to be very long and that is my concern."

The first days of the current conflict, which erupted in February 2003 when ethnic rebels in the western Sudanese region rose up against the Arab-led regime fighting for wealth, power and resources, has degenerated into a vastly more complex web of violence.

Agwai said there were more than two dozen rebel movements in a population of six million and that the conflict was no longer simply "African against Arab" but coloured by infighting between Africans, Arabs and rival signatories of past peace accords.

He also had a strong message for the international community, whose massive engagement has failed to translate into peacekeeping boots on the ground, saying its mistakes have prolonged the conflict.

"Prolonged it in the sense that the approach has been delayed, because if we had approached it from day one with constructive engagement, maybe we would have got beyond where we are today," he said.

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"Now we are taking time to correct them (the mistakes)."

According to the United Nations, up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in February 2003.

Sudan accuses the West of exaggerating the conflict and says 10,000 people have been killed.


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