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Monday, August 28, 2006

Sudan set for U.N. confrontation on Darfur troops

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan ignored U.S. pressure to accept U.N. troops in Darfur, sidelining Washington's top diplomat on Africa on Monday ahead of a critical
U.N. Security Council debate on taming Sudan's violent western region.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer hoped to deliver a strong message to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that he must accept U.N. troops but it was not clear he would meet with her.

Frazer was greeted by an angry crowd telling her to go home on her arrival in Khartoum on Saturday. Her meetings with Sudanese officials since then have been described by one Foreign Ministry official as "just protocol meetings nothing else."

Sudan snubbed an invitation to send high-level officials to a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Monday to discuss a U.S. and British sponsored draft resolution to deploy around 20,000 troops and police to Darfur.

Bashir, whose government has consistently rejected U.N. forces in western Sudan, calls the resolution an attempt at a Western invasion.

"I don't think the foreign minister will be going and of course the Sudanese representative to the
United Nations may or may not attend," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Jamal Ibrahim.

Sudan had asked for the meeting to be delayed and Ibrahim said Khartoum had not received an answer to that request.

Arab League foreign ministers, who had also appealed to the Security Council to delay the meeting, have said they would either not participate or send only low-level officials.


Tens of thousands of people have been killed and 2.5 million forced to find shelter in miserable camps during 3-1/2 years of fighting in Darfur. Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms accusing central government of marginalizing the remote west.

Politicians say Khartoum fears U.N. troops would be used to arrest any officials likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

But rights groups say there are also indications Sudan may not want international forces in Darfur because it is not prepared to end its military operation there.

Amnesty International, in a statement on Monday, supported U.S. claims the Sudanese government was preparing a new offensive in Darfur against some rebel factions who did not sign a May peace deal.

"Eyewitnesses in el-Fasher in North Darfur are telling us that Sudanese government military flights are flying in troops and arms on a daily basis," said Kate Gilmore, Amnesty International's executive deputy secretary general.

Khartoum submitted a plan to the Security Council which would send 10,500 more government troops to Darfur to stop the violence instead of a U.N. force.

"Displaced people in Darfur are absolutely terrified that the same soldiers that expelled them from their homes and villages may now be sent supposedly to protect them," Gilmore said.


An editorial in the state-owned Sudan Vision on Monday said Sudan would never give in to pressure to accept U.N. forces.

"Britain and the American administration ... were required to lead the international community in boosting Sudan's peace instead of destabilizing it," it said.

"Both of them have chosen to drag Sudan into confrontation with the United Nations of which Sudan is a member."

Around 7,000 African Union troops are struggling to monitor a shaky truce in Darfur, but short of cash and capabilities they have been unable to stem the violence which has only increased since an AU-brokered peace deal signed by the government and one rebel faction in May.

Washington calls the campaign of rape, murder and looting genocide, a charge Khartoum rejects.

In an ominous development Sudanese Islamist leaders have said they will take up arms to expel any U.N. forces in Darfur and even turn against the government if it accepts international troops.

Those statements echo comments by
Osama bin Laden, hosted by Sudan in the 1990s, who has said al Qaeda would fight in Darfur if U.N. troops were deployed.

While Britain says it hopes the U.N. Security Council resolution will be adopted by the end of August, the United Nations said it cannot deploy unless Khartoum agrees.

Diplomatic wrangling aside, aid agencies say access to the more than 3.5 million people in need is at its lowest since the war began in 2003 because of worsening security. Eleven aid workers have been killed since the May peace deal.

The International Rescue Committee said rapes against women had sharply risen as the AU has scaled down patrols.

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