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Japan's opposition leader vows aid to conflict-torn Sudanese

5/5/2005 9:21am

KHARTOUM, May 05, 2005 (Kyodo) -- The leader of Japan's main opposition party expressed readiness Wednesday to use his influence to send Japanese aid to displaced Sudanese in the conflict-ravaged region of Darfur.

Katsuya Okada, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, was quoted as telling Najib Al-Khair Abdul-AL-Wahab, Sudan's minister of state for foreign affairs, that what he had seen of the conditions of displaced people in Darfur is "below conditions where people could live with human dignity."

Okada visited Sudan as part of an eight-day trip to the Middle East and Africa.

"Japan would like to grant utmost cooperation by providing food and medicine," Okada was quoted by officials in his entourage as telling Najib Al-Khair, during their meeting in the Sudanese capital.

More than a million Sudanese have reportedly fled amid the bloodshed involving armed rebels and pro-government Arab militia. Last July, the United Nations urged Sudan to rein in the militia, which is blamed for atrocities in Darfur.

The Sudanese government has taken the stance that both sides must lay down their weapons at the same time, while blaming the rebels for starting the conflict in 2003.

Najib Al-Khair, thanking Okada for his interest in the Darfur crisis, was quoted as saying, "We want the international community to put pressure on rebel groups whose activities have caused people to flee."

The minister denied any responsibility on the part of the Sudanese government for the Darfur bloodshed.

But Okada told Najib Al-Khair the Sudanese government "is primarily responsible for resolving the situation."

"I do not want the Sudanese government to remain isolated from the international community," Okada said, according to the officials.

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