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Donors Pledge $200 Million for Sudan's Darfur Region

Donor nations have pledged an additional $200 million to support an expanded African Union (AU) mission in Sudan's western Darfur region. An appeal for more support was answered during a meeting of donor nations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

Kofi Annan (file photo)
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned donors that they were, "running a race against time in the volatile western Darfur region of Sudan."

Mr. Annan said with the approach of the rainy season, delivering relief would become more difficult. He said, if violence and fear prevent the people of Darfur from planting crops, there would be what he called an epic relief effort needed next year.

Mr. Annan chaired the one-day meeting at which donors, representatives of the European Union and NATO, and others gathered to discuss if and how they could help the African Union expand its peace support mission in Darfur.

The African Union has asked for $723 million to finance and equip the Darfur operation, but was about $350 million short at the beginning of the conference.

The African Union's Peace and Security Commissioner Sa'id Djinnit tells VOA the meeting was also meant to build relations between the organization and its supporters.

"And, also it was an opportunity to bringing the partners together because we at the African Union believe that, while the AU is assuming its share of responsibility, it is important to build partnership, and that partnership has been quite forthcoming," he said.

Mr. Djinnit says the donors' response was what he calls really positive. He says there will be many follow-up meetings to coordinate contributions, but, he says, the African Union is confident that it will be able to expand its peace mission based on feedback and pledges given at the meeting.

The 53-member African Union has about 2300 troops to monitor a delicate cease-fire signed earlier by the Sudanese government and rebel groups operating in Darfur.

The pan-African organization is looking to triple the size of that peace support mission to more than 7,700 troops and has asked donors to help it do so.

Media reports indicate that the European Union and NATO have promised to train and transport troops.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting, African Union commission president Alpha Oumar Konare announced that African Union-sponsored talks between the Sudanese government and rebels operating in Darfur would resume in Nigeria's capital June 10.

The Darfur war, which began in 2003, has killed tens of thousands of people and has displaced more than 1.5 million.