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Sudan’s parliament divided over Darfur UN troops

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May 25, 2006 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s parliament erupted in a heated and divisive debate over a possible U.N. mission in Darfur, officials said on Thursday, as U.N. envoys tried to extract a last-minute deal from Khartoum to accept peacekeepers.

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Sudan’s National Assembly

Insults flew as debate turned into an unruly quarrel in Sudan’s National Assembly on Wednesday after Foreign Minister Lam Akol gave a statement saying Sudan should "be more flexible" about the prospect of a U.N. deployment to Darfur.

Deputies said one member of the ruling National Congress Party, which dominates government and the assembly, called those in favour of U.N. troops "traitors and spies".

"This created a big row and the speaker was not able to control the assembly and people were shouting insults at each other," said Deng Dongrin, a member from southern Sudan.

Sudan’s parliament has little say over government policy but, since a separate peace deal last year ended a north-south civil war, other political parties are represented in the assembly allowing for lively debate.

"There were divided views in parliament," said a senior member of parliament who declined to be named.

"But we are waiting for the outcome of the talks between the government and the U.N.," he added.

Veteran troubleshooter Lakhdar Brahimi and a senior U.N. peacekeeping official, Hedi Annabi, have been in Khartoum this week but have so far failed to persuade Sudan to agree to the first step before a U.N. force can be deployed — allowing a technical team into the country to begin mission planning.

Prior to a May 5 Darfur peace deal, Sudan had rejected a U.N. take over from ill-equipped African Union forces in Darfur, but has since said it would negotiate with the world body over the mandate and size of a possible force in its violent west.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million herded into miserable camps during three years of rape, murder and looting in Darfur. The United States calls the violence genocide, a charge Khartoum rejects.

The International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

Brahimi, after two days of talks, is expected to meet with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Thursday evening before leaving on Friday morning.

"That meeting will be the decider — then we will know what the government will do," said one governmental source.

Brahimi said on Wednesday talks had gone well and the government and the world body had reached a "joint vision". He declined to elaborate.

(Reuters)

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