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African Union Extends Darfur Mission

The African Union has extended the mandate for its Darfur peacekeeping mission until the end of the year as it waits to assemble a combined force with the United Nations.

The African Union said in a statement Friday that it hopes efforts to deploy the hybrid force will be speeded up.

Sudan agreed this month to the joint African Union - United Nations force of around 20,000 peacekeepers after months of international pressure and threats of tougher U.N. sanctions.

The African Union already has about 7,000 peacekeepers in Darfur, but they have not been able to stop the region's violence.

Sudanese government-backed Arab militias are accused of committing atrocities in battling Darfur rebels. Four years of fighting in Darfur has left more than 200,000 people dead and more than two million displaced.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.