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Tensions Grow as Sudan Opposes UN Troops in Darfur

Tensions are running high in Sudan, as a controversial proposal that would allow United Nations peacekeepers into Darfur, has been met with disapproval by the Sudanese government. The United States charges that the conflict in Darfur is genocide have infuriated government officials who say the United States is lying and targeting Sudan. And a top U.N. envoy has been summoned by the Sudanese government and charged with making statements that undermine Sudan's sovereignty.

Sudan has rejected a proposed United Nations peacekeeping force in the nation's western Darfur region, despite worldwide pressure to allow U.N. peacekeepers to bolster a floundering African Union mission.

Sudan government officials say the African Union is up to the challenge, despite recent admissions by the AU that Darfur is now more dangerous than ever and that rape, looting and lawlessness continue.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jamal Ibrahim, told VOA that a U.N. force will not be necessary if the African Union has better support.

"The problem with the African Union forces in Dafur is that they need support, they need logistics, they need money. What they need monthly is around $13 to $17 million, which is quite a huge amount of money. And the African Union hasn't got this sum," said Ibrahim. "If it is supported, the forces will perform in a better way. Without our consent, no mandate is going to be reviewed. No other forces will be allowed into the region without the approval of the Sudan government."

Ibrahim did admit that the situation in Darfur is not improving, despite the AU presence in the region.

The AU mission entered Darfur in 2004, and was meant to illustrate that African problems could be handled by Africans, without international intervention. But the mission has faced chronic funding problems and has only 7,000 troops patrolling a remote area the size of France.

Late last year, AU troops became targets in skirmishes between warring rebel factions. After the deaths of several troops, the AU mandate was called weak and ineffective by a rapidly growing contingent of critics who charge that AU soldiers cannot protect themselves, much less Darfuri civilians.

The possibility of U.N. intervention in Darfur has raised the ire of the Sudan government. Top U.N. envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, was summoned into the offices of acting minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Karti for allegedly stating that AU forces in Sudan should be replaced by U.N. forces.

Also at hand is a charge by the U.S. government that the conflict in Darfur is genocide. Ibrahim says the U. S. is targeting Sudan with baseless allegations.

"This is not genocide. There is no genocide and there is no systematic policy of genocide in Darfur. There is no support of any janjaweed, there is no support of any militias, and the government is doing its best to find a resolution to the crisis," he said. "This is a unilateral position by the United States, no other countries, no other partners continue to say that there is a genocide in Sudan. Even the United Nations admitted that there is no genocide in Sudan."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Security Council, John Bolton, has called for a resolution to be passed on the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, by the end of this month.

The three-year-old Darfur conflict began when rebels rose against the Khartoum government, complaining of economic and political marginalization. The Sudan government armed Arab militias known as janjaweed who embarked on a scorched earth campaign of rape and murder. An estimated 180,000 people have died in the fighting and 2 million more have been displaced.