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Sudan Balks at Threat of US Sanctions

Sudan says President Bush is unjustified in his decision to impose new sanctions on Khartoum because of the situation in Darfur. Before the sanctions were even announced at the White House on Monday, Sudanese officials protested the threat, saying every effort is being made to end the conflict in Darfur. Noel King reports for VOA from Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

The United States is hoping that sanctions will propel Sudan to take concrete action to end the four-year Darfur conflict by allowing a large United Nations presence in the region.

A Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sudan hopes to preserve good relations with the United States, but called the sanctions unjustified.

Ali al-Sadiq spoke to VOA by phone in Khartoum.

"We believe any sanctions targeting the government of Sudan have nothing to do with the situation in Darfur," said Sadiq. "It is not going to solve the problem of Darfur. The government of Sudan is working with the United Nations and the African Union to reach a solution."

The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, accusing the country of harboring terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden, who once lived in Khartoum.

Much of the international community has accused Sudan of obstructing the entry of U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

At present, a poorly funded African Union mission of 7,000 troops is struggling amid often chaotic violence, while attacks by militias known as janjaweed continue to displace thousands.

Sudan in April accepted the first two phases of a U.N. support package, which will see about 3,000 peacekeepers deployed to the region.

But Sudan has resisted a so-called U.N./AU "hybrid" force of more than 23,000 peacekeepers. The hybrid force is believed to be the best bet to ending the conflict, due to its size.

The Darfur conflict has cost an estimated 200,000 lives. Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias to crush a rebellion by African tribesmen who complained that remote Darfur, a region the size of France, had been neglected by Sudan's powerful government in Khartoum.