African Union Troops Will Remain in Darfur

By Nick Wadhams
Associated Press
Thursday, September 21, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 20 -- The African Union said Wednesday that it would extend the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Darfur through the end of the year, ensuring that international troops will remain in the war-torn Sudanese province for now.

The United Nations will provide material and logistical support to the mission, though Sudan is still resisting demands that the world body take over the mission from the African Union, said Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, head of the A.U. Peace and Security Council.

The decision was made in a morning meeting of the A.U. body also attended by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. When Bashir left about halfway through the meeting, he withheld comment except to shout "No!" when a reporter asked if he would allow the United Nations to take control of the peacekeepers.

An underfunded A.U. force in Darfur has been unable to stop the violence there. Both the African Union and the U.N. Security Council have called for the United Nations, with its superior funding and resources, to run the mission.

For now, the A.U. mission will be reinforced and infused with U.N. logistical and material support, Compaore said. "Sudan is disposed to work with the United Nations," he said.

The United Nations and many rights groups say that fighting between government troops, with the support of a militia called the Janjaweed, and rebel groups has left at least 200,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million since 2003.

Bashir denies that there is a major humanitarian disaster there and said Tuesday that human rights groups have exaggerated the crisis in a bid for more money.

"The picture that volunteer organizations try to give in order to solicit more assistance and more aid has given a negative result," Bashir said at a news conference.

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly earlier Tuesday, President Bush called the Darfur killings a genocide and said the A.U. force was "not strong enough" to protect the population. He called for the force to be strengthened and demanded that the United Nations take control.

The United States and its allies are weighing whether there are other options for confronting the Sudanese government, including the possibility of military intervention despite Bashir's objections.

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