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Sudan says opposed to UN force as it fears Darfur internationalisation

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June 30, 2006 (PARIS) — Sudan’s President Omar al-Bechir Friday reiterated his opposition to a United Nations force deployment in the troubled region of Darfur, saying he fears conflict internationalisation.

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Omar al-Bashir

In an interview with the French magazine Etudes Geopolitiques, the Sudanese leader was quoted as saying he objected to a UN peacekeeping force because he was "suspicious of the desire of the United States to internationalise the Darfur conflict."

"We do not see the interest in an internationalisation, which could only complicate matters," he was quoted as saying.

"We have become seriously engaged in negotiations under the aegis of the African Union and we have reached an agreement," said al-Bechir.

"Having done all this and shown our goodwill we do not see why the matter should be referred to the UN Security Council applying Chapter Seven of the UN Charter."

The AU-mediated Darfur peace agreement aims to end three years of war in Darfur that has killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced 2.4 million others.

The AU mission in Darfur has asked to be replaced by UN forces. The UN considers its deployment essential to implement a Darfur peace accord signed last month between the Sudanese government and the main Darfur rebel group.

A summit of AU leaders in Gambia this weekend was expected to renew calls for Sudan to accept the transfer of the AU Darfur peacekeeping mission to the United Nations.

Decades of tribal fighting in Darfur erupted into all-out violence in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms, accusing the Arab government in Khartoum of neglect and calling for autonomy.

Bechir also said in the interview his country had "excellent relations with numerous major powers," citing among them Russia and China.

"There exists mutual support between our two countries on many political questions," the French magazine quoted him as saying. China was his country’s partner in numerous investment and development projects, he said.

(ST)

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