U.N. warns that Sudan could use foreign military support in Darfur

UNITED NATIONS Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:38pm EST

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council warned on Thursday that funding, training, spare parts, weapons systems and other materiel supplied to Sudan's government could be used for air strikes in the Darfur region in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.

The 15-member council expressed concern that "the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of technical assistance and support ... could be used by the Government of Sudan to support military aircraft being used in violation" of Darfur sanctions.

The council included the warning in a unanimously adopted resolution renewing the mandate of a group of experts who monitor sanctions imposed on Darfur in 2005. The arms embargo does not ban supplying military hardware, but states must have a Sudan government guarantee that the arms will not end up in Darfur.

Mainly African tribes in Darfur - a vast arid region in the west of Sudan - took up arms against the government in Khartoum in 2003, complaining of political and economic marginalization. African Union peacekeepers were deployed in 2006 and replaced in 2008 by a joint AU-U.N. force.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told the Security Council that Sudan intends to cooperate with the panel of experts, but denied carrying out air strikes in Darfur.

"This is a fallacious claim since we use our air capacities for purely peaceful purposes," he said on Thursday.

Violence has ebbed from the 2003-04 peak but fighting still occurs as several rounds of peace talks have failed. The United Nations has estimated that around 300,000 people have died during the conflict in Darfur and some 2 million people been displaced. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Fighting flared again at the end of December in Darfur's Jebel Marra area, prized for its fertile land, and more than 30,000 people have fled the region, the United Nations said.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other senior officials on charges of masterminding genocide and war crimes in Darfur. They deny this and refuse to recognize the court.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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