Darfur Rebel Group Wants Western Oil Cos To Replace Chinese

LONDON, April 15, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)

A leader within a powerful rebel faction in Sudan's troubled Darfur region wants major Western oil companies to replace Chinese companies in the country, adding that new attacks were being prepared against them.

Offering better guarantees of oil revenue redistribution and environmental protection, "we would love to have Western companies," replace Chinese ones, Eltahir Abdam Elfaki, chairman of the legislative council of the Justice and Equality Movement, said in a recent interview with Dow Jones Newswires.

"We don't want China. We want to expel them. We have the means" to do so, he added. "We are preparing new attacks."

At risk is some of the half-a-million barrels of crude pumped daily in the troubled northeast African country, of which more than 200,000 barrels are imported by China, making Sudan its fourth-largest provider of crude.

Some rebel groups are unhappy about the Chinese government trading oil for weapons and its vetoing of U.N. sanctions on Darfur.

Last year, the Justice and Equality Movement, a powerful military faction fighting Sudan's Arab-dominated regime, attacked oilfields run by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co., or Gnpoc, which is 40%-owned by the China National Petroleum Corp.

Gnpoc and CNPC didn't return a request for comment.

Gnpoc, in which Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd., India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and Sudapet of Sudan are also partners, produces more than 300,000 barrels of oil daily, or 60% of the country's output.

Through Gnpoc and other joint-ventures, CNPC has interests in the southwest province of Kordofan, where the attacks took place.

The head of the political section of China's embassy in Khartoum couldn't be reached on his cell phone.

Authorities in Beijing referred Dow Jones Newswires to recent comments made by at a press conference by China's special representative on Darfur, Liu Guijin.

"I do not think it is wrong to cooperate with Sudan on oil...the recent instability in the southern part and the northern border of Sudan has more or less influenced oil production, but it has no substantial influence."

Rebel forces, Liu added, expect western countries to pressure the Sudanese government.

The Justice and Equality Movement's Elfaki said last year's attacks had been conducted with a local tribe, the Misseriya, who had previously been fighting with the government in South Sudan but which is now dismayed at being demobilized.

He added that the movement was ready to resume operations against Chinese-run firms after helping the regime of neighboring Chad fend off attacks from allegedly pro-Khartoum forces.

Another faction, the Sudan Liberation Movement of Abdel Wahid al-Nur, has also threatened attacks on Chinese companies.

The U.S. government has been raising strong concerns over the situation in Darfur, where conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million since February 2003.

The Justice and Equality Movement's leader, Khalil Ibrahim, is listed by the U.S. Treasury as an individual "contributing to the conflict in the Darfur region", a designation, Elfaki said, tied to Ibrahim's past association with Sudanese Islamist ideologue Hassan al-Turabi.

But the movement is now in favor of a secular, democratic regime in Sudan and "we really want dialog with the U.S.," Elfaki said.

Indeed, by supporting Chad -- whose main oil project is the Chad-Cameroon pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil Corp -- the movement has "definitely" helped U.S. oil interests in the region, he added.

Though mostly Muslims, Darfur rebels have also sought support from Israel.

The Sudan Liberation Movement has opened an office in the country. Elfaki welcomed the move, saying Israel is "supportive of Darfur" and has hosted refugees from the region. The Hebrew state "is a democratic country" and "the Palestinians themselves are negotiating with Israel," he said.

LONDON, April 15, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)


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