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Sudan to probe Garang helicopter crash

8/9/2005 6:09am

KHARTOUM, Aug 8 (AFP) — Sudan said Monday it had formed a committee to probe the death of first vice president and former rebel leader John Garang when a Ugandan helicopter crashed on its way to south Sudan from Uganda.

"A higher national committee has been formed to investigate the crash of Dr. John Garang’s aircraft in southern Sudan," Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters here.

He said the seven-man committee comprises six aviation experts; three representing the Sudanese government and three from the former rebel group that Garang headed, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Ismail added that the government had chosen former Sudanese vice president Abel Alier, a southerner who like Garang hails from the Dinka tribe, to head the body and be the seventh member of the committee.

"Abel Alier shall head the committee as a national figure," the minister said.

The move comes a few days after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni suggested that the crash, initially blamed on bad weather in the mountainous region of south Sudan, may not have been an accident.

Museveni’s comments triggered angry reactions from Sudanese authorities, but the foreign minister denied that it had had an adverse effect on relations with Kampala.

"There is nothing to justify any tensions in relations," he argued.

But he called on the Ugandan side to cooperate fully with the Sudanese committee.

"What we want is transparent cooperation from Uganda with the national committee," he said.

Earlier in the day, the minister said he summoned the Ugandan ambassador in Khartoum to request additional information "related to Dr. Garang’s visit to Kampala" and about the "crash" of his helicopter.

Ismail said he had also formed a foreign ministry committee to help gather any information from foreign countries that would help the investigation.

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