updated 9/30/2004 4:51:41 PM ET 2004-09-30T20:51:41

Sudanese authorities have moved hundreds of pro-government fighters from the crisis-torn Darfur region to other parts of the country to keep them out of sight of foreign military observers demanding the militia’s disarmament, a rebel leader charged Thursday.

International military monitors in Sudan’s war-battered south have expressed concern and investigated, according to a monitoring-mission document obtained by The Associated Press.

“They are in three areas other than Darfur,” including along the Ethiopian border and in southern Sudan’s oil regions, John Garang, leader of southern Sudan’s rebel Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Army, said at a news conference in Cairo, Egypt.

Sudan and U.S. leaders also leveled accusations over the western Darfur region, with Sudan’s president charging Washington with training and arming the rebels and Secretary of State Colin Powell saying commercial interests were keeping some nations from backing sanctions against Sudan.

Genocide charges considered
The U.N. Security Council is weighing genocide accusations and possible sanctions on Sudan’s oil industry over Darfur, where conflict has driven 1.4 million of the western region’s non-Arab villagers from their homes. More than 50,000 people have died.

Sudan’s Arab-dominated government is accused of mobilizing Arab tribal fighters for air-raid-backed attacks on Darfur’s non-Arab villagers in retaliation for uprisings launched by two non-Arab Darfur rebel movements in 2003.

Sudan denies any responsibility in the bloodletting and says it has disarmed some of the Arab militiamen, known broadly as Janjaweed.

Sudanese officials could not be reached for comment Thursday on the claims of rebels and others that some Arab militia fighters had been shipped out of Darfur, to the south and east, rather than disarmed as demanded by the United Nations.

The charge by Garang highlights the dangers that Darfur’s roiling conflict poses to what are meant to be the final stages of peace talks for south Sudan.

A separate civil war in the south has killed 2 million people over 21 years, most from famine brought on by the conflict.

Asked about the alleged Janjaweed move south, Garang said, “I can confirm that they are now in the Blue Nile on the Ethiopian border.”

Rebels had reports that “at least some 200 were taken there,” he said. “We also have reports that some of them were taken to eastern Sudan as well as in the oil areas in the south.”

Overseers of the international Verification and Monitoring Teams mission for south Sudan were authorized in August to investigate claims that Janjaweed militia moved to southern areas outside Darfur, according to an internal report obtained by the AP on condition that it not quote directly from the document.

Officials expressed concern in the document at the reported movement.

Officials of the south Sudan monitoring teams, known for reticence with the media, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Sudanese government ministers referred questions to Cabinet Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmed, a top figure in the ruling party and in peace talks, who did not respond to phone calls.

Sudan accuses U.S. of causing rebellion
In Egypt, the leading daily newspaper al-Ahram carried an interview in which Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir called Washington the instigator of Darfur’s rebellion.

“The United States is the one behind it,” el-Bashir said. “They drove the rebels to Eritrea, held training camps, spent money, armed them and gave them cell phones to communicate between each other from one place to another around the world.”

Powell accused four Security Council members — China, Russia, Algeria and Pakistan — of valuing their business deals in Sudan over humanitarian concerns in Darfur. All four abstained from an 11-0 vote two weeks ago setting up a commission to investigate the genocide charges against Sudan.

“There are some of these countries that just don’t like the possibility of sanctions and others that had commercial interests that they thought would not be well-served if they voted against Sudan’s interest in this resolution,” Powell said in a U.S. radio interview.

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