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General News
African Union chooses Ghana over Sudan 1/29/2007
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The African Union chose Ghana to head the 53-member bloc Monday, turning aside Sudan''s bid for the second year in a row because of the worsening violence in Darfur.

Sudanese leaders were adamant that they deserved the rotating chairmanship, but international organizations opposed giving the position to the Sudanese government, which they accuse of taking part in the conflict in Darfur. Rebel leaders in the Sudanese region have said they would stop considering the current AU peacekeeping mission as an honest broker there if Sudan was selected.

"By consensus vote President (John) Kufuor of Ghana has been elected to the presidency of the African Union," Alpha Oumar Konare, the A.U.''s chief executive, told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Sudan had pushed to obtain the chairmanship during last year''s summit, which it hosted, but African leaders selected Republic of Congo''s president in a compromise deal for him to chair for one year and then hand over to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. But the deal hinged on Sudan demonstrating progress in bringing peace to Darfur, a violence-wracked western Sudan region. Instead of calming, Darfur''s violence in recent months has spilled into neighboring Chad and Central African Republic.

"African heads of states will have to stick to their word," Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali Sadiq said Sunday, insisting that al-Bashir should have the post.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in Darfur since rebels took up arms against the central government in 2003. Sudan''s government is accused of retaliating indiscriminately against civilians and supporting janjaweed paramilitary groups blamed for some of the worst atrocities in the conflict. Sudan''s government denies the allegations.

Al-Bashir opposes a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for some 22,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace or absorb an African force. The AU has 7,000 peacekeepers struggling to end the fighting.


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