Mar 4, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan threatened on Saturday to withdraw from the African Union (AU) in an effort to thwart a UN takeover of AU peacekeeping mission in the country’s restive western region of Darfur.
- Africa Union armoured vehicles deploy in Sudan’s Darfur region town of el-Fasher November 18, 2005. (Reuters)
"We will resist this attempt and respond strongly to it even if that leads to the withdrawal from the AU and the review of Sudan’s membership in the African organization," spokesman of the Sudanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs Jamal Mohamed Ibrahim told Xinhua, referring a UN takeover of the AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
Ibrahim made the remarks days ahead of a ministerial meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council slated for March 10 in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, during which the final decision on whether to turn over the mission will be made.
Last January, the AU said it could not afford an extension of its peacekeeping mission in Darfur and expressed its "support in principle" for a UN takeover of the mission, which has been strongly opposed by the Sudanese government.
However, the UN has already started contingency planning for a takeover, regardless AU Security Council members say a resolution on this issue would not come until the March 10 meeting.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on Thursday, urging the U.S. President George W. Bush to advocate sending NATO troops to work in support of the AU forces and that NATO enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur.
But the UN envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk warned earlier this week against sending NATO forces to Darfur region, saying that the deployment of NATO forces in Darfur would encourage Sudanese people to declare the Islamic Jihad, or Holy War, against the foreign forces.
The Sudanese people feared that deployment of UN forces in Darfur could be step toward repeating the scenario of Iraq in Sudan, warned Pronk. Pronk’s statement immediately drew a warm welcome from the Sudanese government, saying that the statement "is corresponding with the government’s position."
Addressing a graduation ceremony at the Omdurman Military Academy on Saturday, Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir reiterated his refusal of any foreign intervention in Darfur.
Vowing to continue cooperation with the international community, the president said that the African forces in Darfur had "got all the supports from the Sudanese government since their arrival."
Underlining the dangers that the foreign troops could face in the unrest region, he expressed the willingness to solve the Darfur crisis through the current peace negotiations between the government and Darfur rebel movements in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
The AU currently maintains some 7,800-strong forces, including troops and observers, in Sudan’s Darfur region. The pan-African bloc has struggled to keep order in the restive region due to severe financial shortages and logistical problems.
On Feb. 3, the UN Security Council announced a plan to send UN troops to replace the overworked and under-equipped AU-led mission in Darfur. Rebels took up arms in February 2003 in Sudan’s arid Darfur region, accusing Khartoum of negligence.