Fleeing fighting in Sudan who will negotiate with the warring generals Who will negotiate with the warring generals, as most of the international community flees Sudan?

As diplomats flee Sudan fighting, a former envoy says some should stay

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What are you doing in Salt Lake?

A MART├ŹNEZ, HOST:

I am meeting the people that work at KUER on the campus of the University of Utah. I'm going to meet some listeners and also the journalists that cover Utah news and also support the national network.

INSKEEP: Oh, that's great. So they're on the local news. We are also tracking news around the world. And the news today includes this story. Diplomats are fleeing Sudan. A lot of U.S. citizens are not fleeing that African country. Millions of Sudanese civilians also cannot go anywhere. And rival military groups are fighting in the capital city - one group supporting the government, the army, and the other is a paramilitary force that's broken away. Timothy Carney knows a little of this experience because he was U.S. ambassador to Sudan in 1996, which is the last time the U.S. Embassy personnel had to flee Khartoum. He's on Skype.

Welcome to the program.

TIMOTHY CARNEY: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.

INSKEEP: How significant is it when the United States pulls down the flag there?

CARNEY: It's a major and unfortunate occasion. As you've said, I was part of that back in 1996. It was a huge mistake then. I can't second-guess what the White House and Department of State did on this occasion 'cause I'm not on the ground. I don't know what is exactly happening. But one thing's for sure. There had better be some diplomats who stayed. I would hope Volker Perthes, the U.N. special representative of the secretary general, is still there so that he can be in contact with those two military sides that are doing the fighting. In addition, of course, if some diplomats stay, it gives some hope to various nationals who've been unable to evacuate.

INSKEEP: Is the embassy there not defensible?

CARNEY: Look, an embassy is an office building. It is not a fort. And in any case, the days of fortifications - proof against high explosives are long since gone. So, no, no. No embassy is really defensible.

INSKEEP: So you can understand the decision to move people out of harm's way. But it sounds like you are fearful that this may have been a mistake, as you feel it was in the 1990s. What message does the United States send when the diplomats go?

CARNEY: Well, the unfortunate thing is the embassy left, but some 16,000 American citizens, most of them dual nationals of Sudan as well, are there, and they cannot all flee. And normally, an embassy has a contingency plan for moving all of its nationals in case of emergency. I gather that there's work going on to see if that plan can be put together, but in the circumstances, I really doubt it. There's just too much violence between the Sudan army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force.

INSKEEP: Which is the underlying problem that people are trying to address here. We heard from our correspondent elsewhere today, Emmanuel Akinwotu, who describes people in Sudan feeling abandoned by the international community, which is understandable when you hear that diplomats are getting on planes and getting out of there. What can the world do to reassure Sudanese people - the Sudanese people that they're still with them?

CARNEY: Well, the key, of course, is to see who's got the ability to add more pressure to get these two warring generals to come to their senses and to realize their duty towards the Sudanese people themselves.

INSKEEP: Does this sound to you like a civil war?

CARNEY: Civil war is at this point a little too strong because you just have the militaries engaged. And there's - to the best of my knowledge, there's very little popular support for the fighting from the civilians themselves - more fear than anything else, and, of course, suffering with electricity cut off, water unavailable, unless you go down to the Nile.

INSKEEP: Wow. I guess we should remember that this seems to have come out of a dispute about merging the two armed forces. So we can hope, I suppose, that it remains a personal or power struggle rather than a broader civil war. Ambassador, thank you so much.

CARNEY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: Timothy Carney served as U.S. ambassador to Sudan in the mid-1990s. He joined us via Skype.

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