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AU to Deploy More Troops in Darfur

The African Union says it is stepping up efforts to rally support for the floundering Darfur Peace Agreement. The peace deal between the Sudanese government and one faction of the Sudan Liberation army has failed to reduce violence in Darfur.

African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Said Djinnit, told reporters in Khartoum on Friday that the AU is determined to improve its impact in the war-torn region.

Djinnit said the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) will deploy an additional six battalions of troops and 500 police officers to Darfur.

"It is the African Union's determination to strengthen the staff of AMIS in all its components," he said. "We are in the process of assessing the staff of AMIS to give them more options and more strength to implement the DPA."

Critics of the African Union charge that its cash-strapped mission cannot adequately protect Darfuris.

Late last month, scores of civilians, including 27 children, were killed in brutal attacks by militias known as Janajweed. When the United Nations accused Sudan of failing to disarm the Arab militias, Sudan denied the charges and has since increased restrictions on the press in Darfur, refusing to grant travel permits to foreign journalists.

The African Union on Friday promised to report more effectively and transparently on clashes in Darfur. But the AU mission is unable to access many volatile areas.

Critics of the African Union have called for a United Nations force to enter the region. But Sudan has staunchly refused to allow the U.N. entry into Darfur, but has accepted a support package from the U.N. Some 100 U.N. military advisers and support staff are to be deployed to Darfur, to aid the African Union.

The United States, a frequent critic of violence in Darfur, has led the call for U.N. entry. But on Thursday, the United States indicated it will seek alternate proposals to end the bloodshed.

U.N. diplomats are reportedly considering a plan for a beefed-up AU mission that will operate with U.N. logistical support. The so-called African Union plus force will be discussed next week in Addis Ababa when AU officials meet with representatives of Sudan and the United Nations.

The African Union was scheduled to pull its troops out of Sudan in September, but agreed to stay until the end of 2006, following Sudan's refusal to transfer the mission to the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced during the conflict, which is over three-years-old.