Tue, Sep 05, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Defiant Sudan sets deadline for Darfur peacekeeper exit

AFP , KHARTOUOM

In a new act of defiance, Khar-toum asked African Union (AU) peacekeepers to leave Darfur by the end of the month, as its forces engaged in renewed fighting that threatened to plunge the battered region into fresh chaos.

"The African Union has already stated that it could not continue in Darfur, so if it is unable to pursue its assignment beyond September 30, then they have to leave before this date," foreign ministry spokesman Jamal Ibrahim said yesterday.

"At the same time, they have no right to transfer this assignment to the United Nations or any other party. This right rests with the government of Sudan," Ibrahim told reporters.

The Sudanese government had already rejected a UN Security Council resolution passed last Thursday, which calls for the deployment of more than 20,000 UN peacekeepers to take over from the embattled 7,000-strong AU force.

"Up to now, we have not been officially notified by the government of Sudan. Therefore, we cannot comment on it at the present time," the AU mission's spokesman Noureddine Mezni told reporters.

Khartoum submitted plans to the UN for the deployment of its own troops to replace AU monitors in Darfur, but the idea was rejected by the US and angered rebel movements. Sudanese government troops "aren't considered neutral," Washington's top Africa envoy Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of State for African affairs, said last month.

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