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Amnesty: imported arms fueling Darfur conflict

NEW YORK (AP) – Weapons from China, Russia and Belarus are fueling the nine-year-old conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, Amnesty International said in a report late Wednesday.

The human rights group said arms manufactured and supplied from the three countries _ “or evidence of their use” _ have been found in Darfur and other conflict areas including South Kordofan near the border with newly independent South Sudan.

The report documents how China, Russia and Belarus continue to supply weapons and munitions to Sudan despite what Amnesty said is “compelling evidence that the arms will be used against civilians in Darfur.”

It said exports include significant quantities of ammunition, helicopter gunships, attack aircrafts, air-to-ground rockets and armored vehicles.

Amnesty said the report highlights the urgent need for effective controls by the United Nations over the flow of arms.

The 29-page report was released a week before the U.N. Security Council considers existing sanctions against Sudan. U.N. member states are also to resume talks next week on an arms trade treaty.

Countries are allowed to sell arms and ammunition to the Sudanese government, but states are required to provide “end user” certificates guaranteeing the material will not be transferred to Darfur, which is subject to a U.N. arms embargo.

Amnesty International said evidence collected in recent years “unambiguously indicates” that with regard to Darfur, the Sudanese government fails to fully comply with the guarantees and commitments required by exporting countries when licensing arms transfers.

The Darfur conflict began in February 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum, claiming discrimination and neglect. Khartoum is accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing militias on civilian populations _ a charge the government denies.

U.N. officials say at least 300,000 people have lost their lives from violence, disease and displacement, and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.

Amnesty International urged countries supplying arms to suspend all transfers to the Sudanese government to stop further shipments to Darfur. It urged the Security Council to immediately expand the current arms embargo to all of Sudan “in order to stop military and related supplies reaching all parties to the conflict in Darfur.”

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