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Sudan Opposed to Deployment of Additional AU Troops to Darfur - 2004-08-05

The Sudanese government says there is no popular support in Sudan for foreign military intervention in Darfur that falls outside of cease-fire monitoring activities. The comment follows Wednesday's announcement of an African Union plan to bolster its military mission to western Sudan from 300 troops to 2000.

Sudan's state minister for foreign affairs, Najeb Abdelwahad, tells VOA that Wednesday's demonstration in Khartoum, protesting against foreign intervention in Darfur, showed the world how deeply the Sudanese people oppose having foreign troops on their soil.

"Foreign forces, when they are to intervene, it is important that they do that with the consent of the people, with the consent of the government, with the consent of the grassroots that they are going to work with," he said. "We are not sure that any intervention against the will of the people of Sudan would be advisable or would be capable of bringing about their objectives."

The mass protest in Khartoum, involving tens of thousands of demonstrators, was organized by the government, and occurred on the same day the 53-member African Union announced it was planning to significantly bolster its planned troop deployment to Darfur.

In recent days, France dispatched 200 soldiers to secure Chad's eastern border with Sudan's Darfur region, and Britain has also discussed the possibility of sending troops to the region. But the only non-Sudanese troops in Darfur so far have been sent by the African Union. About 80 military observers are there to monitor an often-violated cease-fire signed in April.

The AU was planning to send an additional 300 troops to Darfur to protect the monitors and civilians in the area. But the African body now says it may send as many as 2000 soldiers after receiving reports of continued clashes between government forces and two rebel groups, and ongoing attacks on civilians by pro-Khartoum Arab militias known as the Janjaweed.

Mr. Abdelwahad says his government does not agree with the African Union's assessment that more military troops are needed to stabilize Darfur.

"Things are improving in Darfur," Mr. Abdelwahad said. "We cannot say that we have implemented all what is required from us, but we are doing our best. We believe, particularly security and protection, there are improvement in those areas. And this is according to the Special Envoy of the (United Nations) Secretary General, Jan Pronk, who is currently in consultation with us. For that reason, we believe the sending of two thousand forces to Darfur does not match with the judgment of the United Nations."

On Thursday, the U.N. envoy to Sudan said that Khartoum was making progress in dealing with the crisis in Darfur. Mr. Pronk noted the Sudanese military was no longer conducting activities against civilians there, and he says the government has lifted all restrictions on humanitarian assistance, as it promised to do after a visit to Khartoum by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in early July.

But humanitarian organizations, including those within the United Nations, continue to express concern about the violence in Darfur, which has killed as many as 50,000 people and has displaced more than one million in the past 16 months.

In Washington, President Bush announced the U.S. government would spend $95 million of humanitarian assistance for refugees displaced by violence in western Sudan. The president also called on Sudan to stop the violence in Darfur.

"Brutal militias there are causing human suffering on an immense scale," Mr. Bush said. "The new funding will provide famine relief, assistance for refugees and other humanitarian aid. Yet, no amount of aid can substitute for true and lasting peace. The government of Sudan must stop the violence of the Janjaweed militias, and all parties must respect the cease-fire and allow the free movement of humanitarian workers and supplies."

Last Thursday, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution that threatened unspecified action against Khartoum, if it did not make substantial progress toward disarming the Janjaweed militias and stopping the violence.