US would welcome Ethiopia peacekeepers in Abyei: Clinton

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US secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Monday endorsed the idea of a peacekeeping force in Sudan’s disputed Abyei region and encouraged both sides in the conflict to take up an Ethiopian offer of troops.

“The United States strongly believes a robust peacekeeping presence should be a central part of the security arrangements in Abyei,” Clinton said before leaving Dar es Salaam on her Africa tour.

“The government of Sudan should urgently facilitate a viable security arrangement starting with the withdrawal of Sudanese Armed Forces,” Clinton said.

“We would welcome both parties (North and South Sudan) agreeing to ask Ethiopia, which has volunteered to send peacekeepers, to do so as part of the UN mission,” she said.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and south Sudan leader Salva Kiir have since on Sunday been in talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa aimed at resolving the crises in the Abyei and another border region South Kordofan, one month ahead of the South’s independence.

Clinton will meet with Kiir in Addis Ababa later on Monday, an aide said, but not with Bashir.

Bashir has been charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal court in The Hague but refuses to recognise its authority, though his travels have been severely restricted.

The chief US diplomat met on Monday with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete before heading to the Ethiopian capital.

On the subject of Zimbabwe, Clinton said the United States had been “encouraged by the SADC meeting on Sunday, which emphasised the importance of President (Robert) Mugabe following the requirements of the global peace agreement.”

She was referring to a regional summit of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Sunday in South Africa.

“This is what was agreed to. This is what we expect him to implement and we are grateful for the leadership of Tanzania and others in the region who are making it very clear what the way forward should be. We will continue to follow this closely and support the work Southern Africa is doing.”

On Sunday, regional leaders called on Mugabe and his long time-rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to speed up implementation of the power-sharing deal that brought them together in an uneasy coalition government in 2009.

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