Sudanese government officials are warning that the country will resist attempts to deploy Western peacekeepers in the war-torn Darfur region. An Islamic militant group is calling for all Muslims to fight Western forces if they are sent to intervene in what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail would not say whether Sudanese forces would be ordered to attack Western peacekeepers if they were deployed in Darfur.
But in a telephone interview with VOA, Mr. Ismail strongly hinted that the government would not tolerate the presence of military forces that are not part of an African Union-led monitoring team.
"The people of Sudan are against any foreign intervention," he said. "No nation would accept foreign intervention in their affairs. Those who are talking about foreign intervention, they do not know exactly what the situation [is]. We said that we do not need foreign intervention because we have already African monitors."
The foreign minister's remarks follow a far more blatant warning Sunday from the secretary-general of the ruling National Congress Party, Ibrahim Ahmed Omar. In comments made to a state-run newspaper, Mr. Omar promised that Sudan would not hesitate to use force against any country that tries to intervene militarily in Darfur.
In recent days, Sudan is believed to have received the last of 12 MiG-29 fighter jets it had ordered from Russia. Although the deal was signed three years ago, the timing of the delivery, five-months ahead of schedule, sparked deep concern about their potential use.
Human rights groups say refugees in Darfur have testified that their villages were bombed by Russian-made MiG jets belonging to the Sudanese air force. Many activists fear the new jets may be used in a renewed bombing campaign in Darfur. Sudan's threats against foreign intervention in Darfur have also raised fear they could be used against peacekeepers.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ismail says the jets have been bought for training purposes and ridicules what he calls false information being spread by Darfur rebels to gain international sympathy.
But he acknowledges the MiGs could be used at any time to defend national security.
"It is for training," he said. "We are not forbidden to train our pilots on MiG-29s or even more sophisticated weapons, which is allowed by international law. We are going to seek it. We are going to use it. We should prepare ourselves. We cannot sit, doing nothing while reading that there could be a threat to our national security." Meanwhile, an Islamic militant group calling itself Mohammed's Army handed out leaflets to worshippers Sunday at a mosque in Khartoum, calling on Sudanese Muslims to defend Darfur against, what the group describes as, a crusader army from the United States and Britain.
Talk of possible Western military intervention in Darfur began in earnest last week when Congress declared that the atrocities committed there by local pro-Khartoum Janjaweed Arab militias against the region's black African civilians were acts of genocide. Congressional leaders called on the Bush administration to lead international efforts to intervene.
On Saturday, Britain's top military commander said that 5,000 British troops could be sent to western Sudan to help resolve the nearly 16-month-old conflict. British Prime Minister Tony Blair says it is too early to consider military intervention, but has not ruled out sending peacekeepers.
The White House, the United Nations, and the European Union say they will impose tough new sanctions on Sudan if Khartoum fails to disband the Janjaweed militias.
Khartoum denies accusations that it has been arming and supporting the Janjaweed. The government insists it is doing all it can to disarm the militias and bring security to the region.
The United Nations says the crisis in Darfur is the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. As many as 50,000 people are reported to have died and a million more displaced in Darfur and in neighboring Chad.