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US Governor in Sudan to Press for Acceptance of UN Peacekeepers


The governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, met in Khartoum with Sudan's president to press him to allow deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan's western Darfur region. Noel King in Khartoum reports for VOA, Richardson travels Tuesday to Darfur.

Richardson is a former ambassador to the United Nations, who has negotiated with Sudan's president before. Last year, he successfully negotiated the release of an American journalist, who was held in Darfur on charges of espionage.

Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir has steadfastly refused to allow a U.N. peacekeeping force into Darfur, where an African Union force of about 7,000 troops has not been able to stop the violence that has claimed about 200,000 lives.

The U.N. Security Council in August voted to send more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to the region.

Sudan likened the world body to colonizers, and instead asked for additional financial and logistical support to aid the struggling African Union mission.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali Al-Sadiq said Governor Richardson was welcome to visit Darfur.

"We are looking forward for this visit to strengthen the personal relations between Mr. Bill Richardson and the officials in Sudan," he said. "We believe that this visit might help to reflect the reality of things in Darfur to the members of the Congress and the Democratic Party."

Al-Sadiq said Sudan is hoping Richardson will meet with rebels from Darfur's National Redemption Front, a group of rebel factions, which have refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement, signed by the government and another rebel faction.

Fighting has intensified since then. Sudan has continued aerial and ground attacks causing further civilian casualties.

The Darfur conflict, soon to enter into its fourth year, began when rebels in the region attacked government positions saying Darfur remained undeveloped due to neglect by the government in Khartoum.

Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias, known as janjaweed, to crush the rebellion using a savage campaign of rape and murder aimed at civilians.

At least 200,000 people are believed to have died since the start of the conflict. More than 2.5 million others have been displaced in Darfur or fled to neighboring Chad.

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