Sudan deploys troops at Libya border, evicts envoy

Sudan has deployed troops at the Libyan border to prevent arms smuggling to rebels in Darfur and closed the Libyan consulate in the troubled region, a government official said Wednesday.

Sudan shares an almost 400-km-long (240-mile) border with Libya where a civil war against leader Muammar Gaddafi has split the desert state into a government-held western area around the capital Tripoli and an eastern region held by rebels.

"We deployed troops at the border to Libya because we are worried about arms smuggling (to rebels)," Khalid Musa, spokesman for the Sudanese foreign ministry, said.

Sudan closed the Libyan consulate in al-Fasher in Darfur and asked staff to leave within 48 hours after Libya had closed the Sudanese consulate in the eastern town of al-Kufrah, Musa said.

"We summoned the Libyan ambassador for an explanation why the consulate was closed but his answer came too late and was not satisfactory so we closed the Libyan consulate," he said.

There is little love lost between Gaddafi and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and other war crimes in Darfur.

Relations were strained between Libya and Sudan after Gaddafi agreed to offer refuge to Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement chief Khalil Ibrahim, who had left peace talks in Qatar to return to fighting in Darfur.

Last year, Libya promised to curb any Darfur rebel attacks. Gaddafi hosted and helped insurgents early in the Darfur conflict, which began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms, accusing Khartoum of neglect.

Sudan's counterinsurgency campaign drove more than 2 million Darfuris from their homes, sparking one of the world's worst humanitarian crises that the United Nations estimates has killed as many as 300,000 people.

[Source: Reuters, Khartoum, 04May11]

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