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Bush official raps Obama on Sudan

By Tom Evans, CNN
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EU pulling out its monitors from Darfur
  • Sudanese ambassador to the United States insists elections will be free of irregularities
  • EU: General safety concerns led to decision to remove election observers
  • Elections are a key plank in the U.S.-brokered peace deal in 2005
  • A bitter north-south civil war cost two million lives

(CNN) -- Amid new questions about the credibility of next week's elections in Sudan, a former U.S. State Department official accused the Obama administration of wasting time on a new policy on the bitterly divided nation.

"They spent almost a year developing this notion of a 'new policy' toward Sudan," Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President George W. Bush, said Wednesday in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"And they came up with this notion of 'carrots and stick' which every administration has. So they wasted almost a whole year on a policy review, and yet they are still talking with many different voices."

She said the Obama administration is sharply divided on how to tackle Sudan, the largest country in Africa, and one that is rich in oil reserves.

"I think the biggest challenge for the Obama administration is they're divided. You see very mixed signals coming out from the special envoy (to Sudan) versus the secretary (of state)."

Frazer said President Obama should come out and say what he thinks should happen in Sudan, which next week will hold its first multiparty elections in more than two decades.

But those elections -- a key plank in the U.S.-brokered peace deal in 2005 that ended a bitter north-south civil war that cost 2 million lives -- are facing new challenges.

You see very mixed signals coming out from the special envoy (to Sudan) versus the secretary (of state).
--Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush

The main opposition group, the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), Tuesday said it will boycott most of the upcoming election races and accused the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of fraud.

The SPLM's Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Southern Sudan's representative to the United States, told Amanpour, "It's very clear that he (al-Bashir) has rigged the election, and he wanted to win by all means to legitimize himself."

He said it's very clear that conditions are not conducive for the SPLM to participate in the election in the northern part of Sudan, though he added there will still be elections in the south.

The Sudanese ambassador to the United States, Akec Khoc, insisted the elections will be free of irregularities. "The minister of foreign affairs says that they are free and fair," he told Amanpour.

Frazer, however, also said the Sudanese president is trying to "rig" the election, adding it's extremely unfortunate that the SPLM is withdrawing, as it is doing al-Bashir a favor by giving him a free run.

"I was very confident that their (SPLM) candidate, Yasser Aman, whom I respect tremendously, would have had a chance to give the people of Sudan a choice -- so that they wouldn't have to be left with an indicted war criminal in the person of al-Bashir."

Al-Bashir has been indicted on international war crimes charges over his conduct of the war in the western Darfur region, where government-backed militias have waged a brutal campaign against African tribes, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Gatkuoth declared it is only a matter of time before Sudan disintegrates, with the south breaking a way. A referendum on secession is due to be held next year under the terms of the 2005 peace deal that ended the north-south war.

He said the south is cooperating with the north on what he called a peaceful divorce. "It is very important for us to have a soft landing in 2011 by having the international community engaged in this, to make sure we have a peaceful divorce," he added.

"In 2011, the world should be ready to have two countries. Sudan is going to disintegrate."

But Frazer expressed concern that President al-Bashir will refuse to allow the 2011 referendum on secession to go ahead, and warned of more violence ahead if that happens.

"The low-intensity conflict that we see today will escalate to a full-blown war. ... It would be a very dark future for the Sudanese people."

The involvement of the international community in Sudan took a hit Wednesday, when election observers from the European Union pulled out of Darfur.

General safety concerns led to the decision to remove the observers, who have been redeployed elsewhere in Sudan, the chief of the EU Election Observation Mission in Sudan, Veronique de Keyser, told CNN. It was not immediately clear what the effect the withdrawal might have on the election.