Sudan leader offers help disarming Libyan militias

AP News
Posted: Jan 07, 2012 2:57 PM
Sudan leader offers help disarming Libyan militias

The Sudanese president, for years an adversary of Moammar Gadhafi, offered his nation's help Saturday in disarming Libya's former rebel fighters and integrating them into the army and police forces _ one of the trickiest problem's facing Libya's new leaders.

The proposal from Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Darfur, triggered outrage from Amnesty International. The rights group said al-Bashir has a long history of arming militias to fight internal enemies in Sudan and would be the wrong person to help a nation striving for democracy and respect for human rights.

"We have good experience in integrating insurgents and entering them into the armed forces or the police," al-Bashir said at a news conference with Libyan officials during his first visit to Tripoli since Gadhafi's fall. "Our officers are ready at any time."

The visit could herald closer ties between the two nations after years of deteriorating relations under Gadhafi. Sudan had accused Gadhafi of supporting rebels fighting the Sudanese government in the western Darfur region. Al-Bashir, in turn, openly supported Libyan rebels in last year's uprising, giving them weapons and money.

Western countries that provided Libya's rebels with key military support, however, are unlikely to welcome warmer Libya-Sudan ties. Many consider al-Bashir a war criminal.

The International Criminal court in The Hague, Netherlands, has charged him with crimes against humanity for atrocities committed against civilians during the Darfur conflict. The same court sought to try Gadhafi for war crimes before he was killed during his capture by rebels in October.

Libya's new leaders have struggled to form an effective government and disarm the mostly civilian militias that took up arms against Gadhafi during the eight-month civil war. Deadly clashes between former rebels have broken out since the war's end, sparking fears that the persistence of armed groups outside of government control could further destabilize the North African nation.

Al-Bashir also encouraged Libya to rebuild ties with its African neighbors. During his years as international pariah, Gadhafi used Libya's vast oil wealth to court support in Africa, funding everything from armed groups to mosques and schools and suggesting the formation of what he called a "United States of Africa."

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Al-Bashir rejected the idea that this won Gadhafi genuine affection around Africa.

"The African countries neighboring Libya didn't love Gadhafi. They feared him," he said.

Libyan officials welcomed al-Bashir in a red carpet ceremony at a Tripoli airport, and Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib called him one of Libya's friends.

It remains unclear, however, if Libya will accept al-Bashir's offer to help with militia integration.

Some pointed out the irony of a government founded by rebels who overthrew one autocrat warmly welcoming another.

Amnesty International criticized Libya for receiving al-Bashir.

Erwin van der Borght, the group's Africa director, called it "cynical" of Sudan to offer to help with militia integration, given that country's experience in arming militias like the Janjaweed, which is blamed for some of the worst abuses in Darfur.

"Sudan is the last country that has any credibility in that issue," he said.

He also said all countries, including Libya, have a responsibility to arrest al-Bashir and turn him over to the International Criminal Court.


Hubbard reported from Cairo.