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Sudanese Official Says Disagreement Continues Over Proposed Darfur Force


Sudanese officials have been giving conflicting signals about whether the government has accepted the idea of a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry says there is disagreement over who should command the force.

Sudan said on Sunday that it has not yet decided how much U.N. support it will allow in Darfur, but indicated it will not agree to U.N. command of any force in the region.

For months, the Sudanese government staunchly refused to allow the U.N. to support the struggling African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. Following a high-level meeting with U.N., African Union, EU, U.S. and Arab League officials last week, the U.N. said Sudan had agreed in principle to allow a joint U.N. - AU force.

That raised hopes that a joint force might stem a rising tide of violence in Darfur.

But since Thursday's meeting in Addis Ababa, Sudan has sent mixed signals regarding how much U.N. support it will allow.

Some officials have indicated that Sudan will accept U.N. troops, while others say the U.N. should only provide logistical and financial support.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali Al-Sadiq told VOA that the U.N. and Sudan disagree over who should command the force.

"We differ over two issues: the number of the proposed forces in Darfur and the leadership, the command of these forces," he said. "Since the African Union is entrusted with the agreement, and the majority of the forces on the ground are Africans, there is no room for speaking about a joint command."

Critics have charged that Sudan is backtracking on its initial agreement to allow a joint mission in the region.

The U.N. has proposed sending 17,000 troops to Darfur, but Sudan says only 11,000 are necessary.

Violence has risen in Darfur in recent weeks.

U.N. Humanitarian Chief Jan Egeland on Saturday accused Sudan of continuing atrocities against civilians, following a visit to the region.

Al-Sadiq told VOA he was surprised by Egeland's assessment of violence in Darfur.

Sudan has long insisted that the Darfur conflict has been exaggerated by western nations for political reasons.

But in recent weeks the African Union and U.N. observers have reported the deaths of scores of civilians, many of them children, in attacks by armed militias and the Sudan Armed Forces.

The Darfur conflict has cost tens-of-thousands of lives and displaced more than two million people.

Sudan is charged with arming nomadic Arab tribes to crush a 2003 rebellion by African farmers.