Home | News    Friday 22 September 2006

Sudan urges 6-month extension of AU peacekeepers in Darfur

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Septr 21, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan on Thursday welcomed the African Union’s decision to keep peacekeepers in the war-torn Darfur region another three months and urged them to extend their mandate even further, amid government opposition to replacing them with a tougher U.N. force.

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Al-Samani Al-Wasleea

Al-Samani Al-Wasila, Sudan’s junior foreign affairs minister, said the government wants a six-month extension - until the end of March - for the A.U. force.

"The African Union troops are qualified," he told reporters in Khartoum.

He urged the U.N. and the Arab League to provide humanitarian assistance to Darfur rather than troops. "It is easier to back the current troops" instead of deploying new ones, Al-Wasila said.

The A.U. peacekeepers’ mandate had been due to run out at the end of this month. An extension through Dec. 31, announced at the U.N. Wednesday, puts off a showdown for now over Khartoum’s refusal to allow U.N. troops to take over the mission and triple its size.

The underequipped 7,000-member A.U. force has been unable to bring an end to violence in the large western region of Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed amid three years of fighting between government forces and rebels.

Another 2.5 million have been driven from their homes by the fighting and by attacks from pro-government militias known as the janjaweed. Violence has continued despite a peace deal reached May 5 between the government and one of the rebel groups.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month that would put the African force under the U.N., expand it to more than 20,000 troops and give it new authority to protect civilians. But Sudan has vehemently rejected a U.N. role, saying the deployment aims to divide and weaken the country.

"Our aim is not to finalize the role of the A.U. at the end of this year, but to encourage them to continue forward and to set a positive example," Magzoub Al-Khalifa Ahmed, an adviser to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, told a Khartoum press conference.

"They are able to solve the conflict in Africa," he said.

The A.U. is still trying to convince Sudan to accept a U.N. force. Under the extention announced Wednesday, the U.N. will lend material and logistic support to the African force - and the Arab League has also agreed to provide funding.

Al-Bashir, returning from the annual U.N. General Assembly session, stopped briefly in Cairo on Thursday and held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. There was no comment on what they discussed.

(AP/ST)

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