Sudan to allow UN mission
New York - Sudan says it will allow six UN agencies to take part in a government-organised mission to South Kordofan, where the UN human rights office has called for a probe into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Khartoum's UN Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said the joint mission will be sent to South Kordofan on Saturday "to assess the situation of human rights there and the humanitarian needs".
South Kordofan lies just across the border from newly independent South Sudan and has been the site of clashes between government troops from Sudan's Arab north and black tribesman aligned with the south's Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Many inhabitants of South Kordofan fought for the south during the country's two decades-plus civil war against the north and are ethnically linked to the south.
A report released on Monday by the UN human rights office in Geneva said Sudanese security forces allegedly carried out indiscriminate aerial bombardments in South Kordofan that killed civilians in the weeks before South Sudan became independent on July 9. It also alleged that Sudanese forces executed prisoners accused of belonging to the south's Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement before burying them in mass graves.
The Satellite Sentinel Project on Wednesday released images of what it says are two piles of corpses wrapped in body bags or tarps in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. The US group said an analysis of satellite images concluded that pro-government forces are trying to cover up a third mass grave beneath a water tank.
Government denies crimes
The Sudanese government denies committing atrocities and has called the UN report "biased" and "unfounded".
Osman told reporters after UN human rights chief Navi Pillay briefed the Security Council on the report behind closed doors that he had just received word of the joint mission to South Kordofan which will include the UN health, humanitarian, refugee and children's agencies.
Before South Sudan seceded from Sudan, a UN peacekeeping force monitoring a 2005 peace agreement between the north and the south had troops deployed in South Kordofan. But Sudan refused to extend the force's mandate and the remaining UN troops in South Kordofan are withdrawing.
While Osman indicated that the joint UN-Sudan mission would refute the report's findings, diplomats said Pillay called for an independent international investigation of events in South Kordofan.
One European diplomat, who was not authorised to speak publicly, strongly backed an international probe, noting that Pillay not only mentioned possible war crimes and crimes against humanity but said the Sudanese were possibly resorting to the use of chemical weapons.
Last week, Russia and China blocked US attempts to get the Security Council to issue a statement condemning the Sudanese government bombing and other military activities in South Kordofan.
'Negotiate a settlement'
Britain's deputy ambassador Philip Parham said that after Friday's briefing by Pillay, "there may well be another look at the possibility of a statement" by the council.
In late June, representatives from the north and south signed an agreement in Ethiopia aimed at restoring peace in South Kordofan and neighboring Blue Nile state. But on July 1, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said the northern army would continue its campaign in South Kordofan.
Osman accused the south of failing to adhere to the 2005 agreement and starting the military attacks.
"I think that they should come to their senses and accept to sit down and negotiate a peaceful settlement," he said.