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Sudan tells US delegation it opposes UN troops in Darfur

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Feb 20, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan told a visiting U.S. delegation that it opposed a proposal to deploy international peacekeepers to the troubled Darfur region and that it was committed to negotiations to end the tensions there.

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Ali Osman Taha

Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha spoke to the 11-member congressional delegation Sunday night after they returned from a daylong visit to Darfur.

"Sudan rejects replacement of the African Union forces with United Nations forces," Taha told them, according to a Monday report by the state-run Sudan News Agency.

The United Nations has suggested a peacekeeping force of up to 20,000 troops to disarm militias and provide security so over 2 million displaced people can return home. Sudan opposes non-African peacekeepers.

The African Union, which has 7,000 troops in Darfur, has accepted in principle the need to transform into a U.N. peacekeeping force. Its current mandate in Darfur expires March 31.

According to the Sudan Media Center, a tribal delegation in Darfur gave the U.S. delegation a memorandum in which they rejected any foreign international forces in their region.

"Talking about dispatching Atlantic troops to the region means sending a wrong signal to the rebels that troops would be sent to remove the current government and impose a new political reality therein," Amin Hassan Omar, government delegation spokesman in Abuja, told SMC.

SUNA said Taha told the delegates that Sudan was committed to resolving the Darfur problem through peaceful negotiations, and blamed the rebels for procrastinating in the ongoing peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

Samani Al-Wasilla, state minister of Foreign Affairs, said Taha briefed the visitors on the nature of the conflict in Darfur, explaining it was "a situation of security violations and intertribal fighting over water and grazing areas and could not under any circumstance be described as a genocide."

He said Sudan stressed its commitment to reach a peaceful settlement in Darfur but criticized the rebels for their "lack of will" to reach a peaceful settlement, according to SUNA.

The 11-person delegation, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left Sudan Sunday night. It also plans to visit Cape Verde, Ghana, Liberia and South Africa.

(ST/AP)

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