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Sudanese, South African Presidents Discuss Darfur, Southern Sudan


Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and South African President Thabo Mbeki have been holding talks in Capetown to discuss the deteriorating situation in Darfur and the deployment of additional peacekeeping troops there. Sudanese officials want South Africa to contribute troops to the force. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South African President Thabo Mbeki held talks Tuesday on efforts to speed up deployment of international peacekeepers to the troubled Darfur region in western Sudan.

Mr. Bashir's advisor, Mustafa Ismail, told national radio that Sudan has accepted a combined force of troops from the African Union and the United Nations. But he indicated his government prefers soldiers primarily from African countries.

"Currently now we have 7,000 African troops. We need to increase them up to 26,000. Sudan wants South Africa to increase the number of South African soldiers in Darfur," said Ismail.

Officially, South Africa has not sent any troops to Sudan. It says its forces are stretched thin by contributions to peacekeeping missions in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Reconciliation efforts in Sudan have been plagued by problems.

Peace talks on Darfur recently stalled when several rebel groups refused to attend reconciliation talks in Libya.

In addition, former southern rebels last month withdrew from the government in Khartoum accusing it of failing to implement a power sharing agreement by delaying the withdrawal of government troops from their oil-rich region.

Mr. Mbeki played an important role in forging a peace accord in 2005 that ended the 21-year civil war in southern Sudan.

The southern civil war killed an estimated two million people and made four million homeless.

International mediators say they hope to forge an accord in Darfur where 200,000 people have died and more than two million have been displaced.

A coalition of 180 religious and human rights groups Monday called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council saying the lack of progress in the Darfur peace negotiations was leading to an escalation of violence.

The Sudanese government has reacted by saying that the latest difficulties are primarily technical.

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