France and Britain circulated a new, toned-down draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council Tuesday, authorizing the deployment of international peacekeepers in Sudan's western Darfur region and dropping the threat of sanctions.

The resolution calls for the deployment of a 26,000-strong joint African Union - U.N. peacekeeping force to try to quell the violence in the western region.

The resolution is under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter, which makes it mandatory. It allows peacekeepers to use all necessary means - including force - to protect themselves as well as civilians in Darfur.

But Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, criticized the document, calling it "ugly." Sudanese officials insist such a mandate would be a violation of Sudanese sovereignty.

The U.S. envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, said Khartoum should not have veto power over the proposed document.

Last month, Sudan agreed under intense international pressure, to allow a combined United Nations - African Union peacekeeping force numbering around 20,000 troops into Darfur.

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