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French Foreign Minister Calls on UN, AU to Aid Darfur

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy called Wednesday for a mixed peacekeeping force of United Nations and African Union forces to stabilize Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

In remarks on France 2 television, Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy said a force of U.N. and AU soldiers should be deployed to stabilize Darfur and Sudan's restive borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.

Douste-Blazy, who recently returned for a trip to Egypt and Sudan, warned Sudan risked being divided in two and that the Sudanese conflict may spill over to Chad and the CAR. Both countries have accused Khartoum of fomenting unrest within their borders.

The French foreign minister's remarks follow a plea by two Paris-based humanitarian organizations for parties to return to peace negotiations on Darfur, where a civil war has killed 200,000 people and displaced more than two million.

If not, warns Philippe Conraud, a Sudan expert at one of the groups - Action Against Hunger - there might be disastrous consequences.

Conraud said the last peace agreement, signed in May, has not improved the situation in Darfur. Rather, things have deteriorated. There has been more violence resulting in more displaced people. It doesn't matter if peacekeeping forces are from the U.N. or the AU, Conraud says, but they must be accepted by both the Sudanese government and the rebels.

Khartoum has repeatedly rejected proposals for U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur. And following a meeting with Mr. Douste-Blazy Monday, the governor of North Darfur accused the West of meddling in the region.