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Sudan To Skip IGAD Meet Over Arms Controversy
By LUCAS BARASA
Khartoum , October 21, 2008 - Top Sudanese government officials will not attend an Inter-Government Authority on Development meeting slated for Kenya next week in what is seen as an escalation of the controversy on the hijacked Ukrainian ship with weapons.
Government sources in Khartoum told the Nation that neither President Bashir, Vice-President Ali Osman Taha nor the Minister for Foreign Affairs Deng Alor will attend the October 26-29 meeting.
Instead Sudan is to be represented at the crucial talks by its Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed bin Abdullah al Mahmoud, an equivalent of Kenya 's assistant minister for Foreign Affairs.
The Igad meetings are normally preceded by technical committee meetings, followed by that of Foreign Affairs ministers and finally Head of State or Governments Summit.
The Sudan representative is to attend the Foreign Affairs ministers meeting.
Igad is an organisation of six eastern African countries focused on drought control and development initiatives.
Members include Kenya , Uganda , Somalia , Sudan , Ethiopia and Djibouti . Eritrea which was also a member quit last year. Next week's summit will discuss security situation in Somalia and to pressurize forces within the Transitional Federal Government to end their squabbles and work together.
The plan by top Sudanese officials to skip the meeting comes hot on a heels of a move by the country's Energy minister Zubain Mohamed Salih to cancel his visit to Kenya to finalize an oil purchase deal.
The Sudan 's minister was to be in Nairobi this week to sign an agreement with his counterpart, Mr Kiraitu Murungi, that would have seen Kenya start importing oil at a cheaper rate from Sudan .
Kenya had already signed a memorandum of understanding with Sudan over the purchase.
Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang'ula was also in Sudan last month to deliver President Kibaki's message to Field Marshal Bashir. During the visit Sudan offered Kenya land to construct its embassy.
Sudan summoned Kenya 's ambassador to Khartoum to protest over Ukrainian ship that was hijacked by pirates in September off the Somali coast.
The destination of the shipment of 33 T-72 tanks and other weapons seized by pirates has raised controversy.While Kenya says the cargo belonged to the country, the pirates who are still holding the cargo, said paperwork showed the tanks were headed for South Sudan through the port of Mombasa .
Source: Daily Nation, Oct 21, 2008