The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations says the world body should provide more support to African Union peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.

U.N. Undersecretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno says the African Union mission in Darfur must be strengthened in preparation for the eventual deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Guehenno made the comments Tuesday after briefing the U.N. Security Council on his recent visit to Darfur. He recommended a substantial U.N. force be deployed in Darfur by January of next year, to help end the suffering of its two-and-a-half million refugees.

The U.N. official acknowledged that the Sudanese government has yet to agree to such a deployment. But U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he will discuss the issue with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir later this week.

Mr. Annan will meet with Mr. Bashir at an African Union summit in Banjul, Gambia, on July 1. The U.N. chief says he believes there is a chance the Sudanese leader will drop his resistance to a U.N. force in Darfur.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.