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’Tiny’ window open for UN troops in Darfur - UN envoy


July 26, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan has left a ’tiny’ window open for negotiation on accepting U.N. troops in its violent Darfur region, the top U.N. envoy in Khartoum said on Wednesday.

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Jan Pronk

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has refused international demands for a U.N. force in Darfur, saying it would be used as a front for the colonial ambitions of the United States and attract attacks by Islamic militants.

Jan Pronk, the U.N.’s top envoy in Sudan, told reporters on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Lam Akol had told international donors in Brussels earlier this month that no decision had been made on the issue.

"The minister of foreign affairs declared in Brussels ... that the decision has not yet been taken," he told a news conference in Khartoum.

"The international community has seen this as an opening, a very tiny opening - I don’t know how big it is."

Pronk said the Brussels conference had secured funding for African Union troops, currently monitoring a shaky ceasefire in Sudan’s west, until the end of the year.

Pronk said he estimated the AU got pledges of more than 70 percent of the $270-335 million they had requested to continue their mission and implement a May 15 peace deal.

The under-funded and ill-equipped AU force has failed to stop the rape, pillage and murder in Darfur, and it has been attacked by refugees unhappy with an AU-brokered peace deal signed in May by only one of three negotiating rebel factions.

Pronk said the force had withdrawn from most of the camps in Darfur which house more than two million who fled their homes to seek refuge over the past three years.

In the past week violence has escalated, especially around the West Darfur town of Zalingei. Three government water and sanitation employees and a policeman were beaten to death in separate incidents by camp residents who distrust the central authority they blame for forcing them into the camps.

"A number of the camps are near to exploding," Pronk said.

Darfur rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing the central government of neglect. To quell the revolt the government armed tribal militias who now stand accused of alleged crimes against humanity.

Washington calls the violence genocide, a charge Khartoum rejects. The violence created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.


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