U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says Sudan has agreed in principle to allow a joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.

Mr. Annan says negotiations are still under way about the size of the force and a timetable for its implementation. Diplomats say Sudan also has concerns over who will command the force.

Mr. Annan made the announcement late Thursday in Ethiopia following a meeting of senior officials from Sudan, the African Union, the European Union, the United States and the Arab League.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe says President Bush welcomes the agreement. He said the force will be composed of, and led primarily by African troops, but will be commanded and funded by the United Nations.

White House spokesman Tony Snow says "the people in Darfur deserve an effective protection of force."

The United Nations had wanted U.N. peacekeepers to completely replace the under-funded African Union force, but Sudan has flatly rejected that proposal.

Rebels in Darfur accused Sudanese government forces and Arab "Janjaweed" militia Thursday of more deadly attacks on civilians.

A commander with the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, Jar El Naby, told VOA that at least five people were killed in attacks Wednesday in northern Darfur. He alleges government troops and Janjaweed were responsible.

At least 50 people are reported to have been killed in recent days.

The 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur have been unable to stop violence involving rebel groups, the government, and government-backed militias.

Darfur rebels began their fight against the Sudanese government in 2003. More than three years of fighting in the region have left an estimated 200,000 people dead and displaced more than two million others from their homes.