ABUJA, Nigeria – Secretary of State Colin Powell's declaration that genocide had taken place in western Sudan's Darfur only serves to heighten tensions, a top Sudanese official charged Thursday.
Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (search) Thursday in Washington that abuses by government-supported Arab militias in Sudan qualify as genocide against the black African population in the Darfur (search) region — a determination that should pressure the government to rein in the fighters.
"We don't think this kind of attitude can help the situation in Darfur," Sudanese Deputy Foreign Minister Najeeb Al-Khair Abdel-Wahab (search) told The Associated Press. "We expect the international community to assist the process that is taking place in Abuja, and not put oil on the fire."
Abdel-Wahab spoke in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, scene of two weeks of peace talks between Sudan's government and rebels in the 19-month-old Darfur conflict.
The Sudanese official insisted his government was acting in good faith.
"The Sudan government is doing everything possible to resolve the crisis and that is why we are meeting in Abuja," Abdel-Wahab said.
"Even the U.N. acknowledges that a lot of progress has been achieved on the humanitarian front," the Sudanese official said. "We admit that there are still security problems, but the security situation is very complicated."
The United Nations says 1.2 million people have been made homeless and tens of thousands killed in the Darfur conflict, with government forces accused of backing Arab militia in violent campaigns non-Arab villagers.
The African Union is sponsoring the peace talks in Abuja. Talks have made little or no progress since opening Aug. 23.