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UN peacekeepers tread fine line between rebels and Khartoum.

KHARTOUM: UN-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur are facing a new crisis, with the Sudanese government demanding they hand over local leaders suspected of ties with rebels and the rebels urging them to ignore Khartoum's calls.

The crisis erupted after deadly fighting last week swept the Kalma and Zalengei refugee camps -- strongholds of partisans of the Sudan Liberation Army of rebel leader Abdelwahid Nur.

Up to 11 people were killed in the fighting between supporters of Nur's SLA and partisans of Qatari-hosted peace talks between the rebels and the Khartoum government.

Five leaders of Kalma camp, who Khartoum believes were involved in last week's deadly fighting, sought refuge with the hybrid United Nations and African Union mission, UNAMID, which is charged with protecting civilians.

Over the weekend the governor of South Darfur, Abdul Hammid Musa Kasha, has demanded that UNAMID hand him the five men and his call was given added weight by President Omar al-Bashir.

"The government supports this request because it is the government's duty to protect its citizens and its right to exert sovereignty over all its territory," state news agency Suna quoted a presidential advisor as saying.

But Nur, who lives in exile in Paris, warned UNAMID against acceding to the government's demand.

"These people will face death, torture," Nur told AFP in a telephone interview.

"They have to protect people. If they hand them, there is no need for UNAMID to be there in Darfur," he said.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes in Darfur, where the United Nations say 300,000 people have died since the war began in 2003.

Meanwhile a UNAMID spokesman said the peacekeepers were working on defusing the tension.

"Strides have been made toward improving relations between the government of South Darfur and UNAMID," said UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick.

"The Deputy Joint Special Representative Mohammed Yonis has met with the wali (governor), Abdul Hammid Musa Kasha, twice over the past two days and both are committed to finding an amicable solution to the problems concerning Kalma," he said.

The sprawling refugee camp of Kalma is home to 80,000 people, most of whom are supporters of Nur.

But the latest fighting sent people fleeing for safety.

"According to a rough estimate, about one third of the camp is scattered. It is a lot of people. It is a serious situation" said Sam Hendricks of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

He said some of the people sought refuge with a UNAMID-run police station on the outskirts of the camp; others left the camp or moved to different sections of Kalma camp.

UNAMID is the UN's largest mission, with more than 20,000 soldiers and police deployed in Darfur. A total of 27 members of the force have been killed since it deployed in Darfur in January 2008.

Relations between the peacekeepers and the regional government have also been tense at times.

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Aug 4, 2010
Words:502
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