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France Urges Sudan to Accept More Peacekeepers


French President Jacques Chirac is urging Sudan to accept more peacekeepers in its troubled Darfur region, while also pushing for a meeting between Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and other African leaders at a France-Africa summit in Cannes, France. Nico Colombant reports from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Speaking about the Darfur conflict, Mr. Chirac said Africa must refuse to accept what he called the fatality of a humanitarian catastrophe, which threatens an entire region.

He says the international community and the African Union are ready to help, but Sudan's government and other belligerents must accept more peacekeepers and stop the fighting.

Mr. Chirac also tried to organize a meeting between Sudan's president and the leaders of Egypt, the Central African Republic and Chad.

Rebel movements near the border with Sudan have been active in both Chad and CAR, leading to the killing of civilians and the displacement of thousands of people back and forth across borders.

The governments in Chad and CAR have accused Sudan of backing these rebel movements. Darfurian rebels have their headquarters in Chad's capital.

A 7,000-strong African Union force has been trying to help stop the violence in Darfur, itself, but it is under-funded and ill-equipped.

Sudan's government has so far rejected a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a large U.N. peacekeeping contingent, but has sent mixed signals about a joint, U.N.-African Union force.

There are also efforts for an international peacekeeping force in the border region along the three countries.

As part of bilateral accords, France has already been helping the governments of Chad and CAR fight back their own insurgencies.

Mr. Chirac defended these actions, saying they were in line with U.N. and African Union mandates, to help contain violence in Africa.

One of the frontrunners in next April's French presidential election, in which Mr. Chirac is not a candidate, Segolene Royal says she would consider reviewing these French military accords in Africa, saying they are outdated.

More than 30 African heads of state are taking part in the three-day summit, as well as several European leaders. The lack of conflict resolution in divided Ivory Coast and military-ruled Guinea are also being discussed.

Several African leaders are not attending, including Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who has a European travel ban because of human rights abuses, and South African and Ivory Coast presidents Thabo Mbeki and Laurent Gbagbo, both of whom have strained relations with Mr. Chirac.

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