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Sudan Stages Protest Against Foreign Intervention in Darfur Crisis - 2004-08-04

Tens of thousands of people in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, marched on the United Nations building in a state-orchestrated demonstration against a Security Council resolution giving Sudan a month to disarm the Arab militias accused of carrying out atrocities against the region's black Africans.

The demonstration ratchets up the tension in an already difficult struggle by the United Nations to get Sudan's government to comply with the 30-day deadline to disarm Arab militias in Darfur.

Speaking in a televised broadcast of the British Broadcasting Corporation, this protester had this message for the United Nations. "We don't want any foreigners in Sudan. British or American or whatever. Sudan is for Sudanese," he said.

The march was led by the head of the ruling National Congress party, Ibrahim Ahmed Omar.

The pro-government rally follows a decision by the African Union to expand its peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region from 300 to 2,000 troops. The AU troops are supposed to monitor Sudan's compliance with the resolution and assist with humanitarian aid.

France has 200 soldiers in Chad near the Sudanese border, and a top British military commander said his country could send up to 5,000 troops, if needed.

The U.N. estimates that Arab militias have killed up to 50,000 people, mostly black Africans, and displaced more than a million. The attacks, which the U.S. Congress said amount to genocide, prompted the United Nations to pass a resolution Friday threatening economic and diplomatic sanctions if Khartoum did not rein in the Arab militias by the end of August.

The Sudanese government balked at the deadline at first, but then reluctantly agreed to abide by it. Still, Sudan's army spokesman continues to condemn the resolution this week, calling it an act of war, and accuses the international community of using the resolution as a pretext to invade Sudan.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, put the blame for the Darfur crisis squarely on the shoulders of rebels who sparked a 2003 uprising in the region.

"People forget that this [is] war by the rebels, not by the government," he said. "So the rebels should be held responsible about the catastrophe which took place as a consequence of this war."

Many of those displaced by the Darfur crisis, including the 200,000 refugees in eastern Chad, face continued attacks by Arab militias. Now, there is the looming threat of starvation and disease as the rainy season begins, making many roads impassable for aid groups trying to bring them food and medicine.