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Britain: Peacekeepers Needed in Darfur

Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, has called on Sudan to speed up the deployment of peacekeepers to the war-ravaged Darfur region.

Speaking Friday at the end of a six-day tour of China, Miliband said the international community is united behind the need for a joint United Nations-African Union force in Darfur, but is meeting resistance from the Sudanese government.

In an interview with British radio Thursday, Miliband said there are ten thousand-five hundred peacekeepers in Darfur - less than half of the 26,000 authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

Sudan has denied blocking the deployment and blames the delay on inadequate Western financial support.

Miliband is also calling on Sudan to stop aerial bombings in western Darfur. The government recently began an offensive against rebels in the region.

The U.N. refugee agency said today that an additional 3,000 refugees from West Darfur have arrived in the Birak area of eastern Chad during the past week. It says more than 13,000 Darfur refugees in all have fled to the area since fighting in West Darfur erupted on February 8.

The Darfur conflict started in early 2003 when rebels rose up against the Khartoum government, saying the government had neglected their region. Violence since then has claimed some 200,000 lives and displaced more than 2.5 million people.

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