Sudan says African Union can't transfer Darfur mission to UN, must leave by Sept. 30

Monday, September 4th 2006, 6:06 am
By: News On 6

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ Sudan said Monday that the African Union has no right to transfer its peacekeeping mission in Darfur to the United Nations and must withdraw its troops from the western region by month's end.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jamal Ibrahim said that the AU had indicated that it could not continue its presence in Darfur beyond Sept. 30.

``If they are unable to continue with their assignment in Darfur beyond Sept. 30, then they have to leave before that date. At the same time, they have no right to transfer this assignment to the U.N. or any other body. This right rests only with the government of the Sudan,'' he said.

The government on Thursday rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution for the deployment of a 20,000-strong U.N. force in Darfur.

Instead it has launched a major offensive reportedly involving thousands of troops and militias in the northern part of Darfur.

The week-old offensive targets rebels who refused to sign a U.S.-brokered peace deal in May aimed at ending three years of conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.

The ill-equipped and underfunded AU force of 7,000 troops has been unable to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, where the peace deal signed by the government and one of the three ethnic African rebel groups operating in the region has had little effect.

The African Union has called for the U.N. to take control of the peacekeeping force, whose formal mandate expires on Sept. 30.

But Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has rejected a U.N. presence, instead offering to send 10,000 government troops to Darfur.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said the government would pursue its own plans to pacify Darfur.

``Sudan will proceed with implementation of the Darfur peace agreement according to its own plan to restore security and stability in the region,'' he said.

AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni said Khartoum had not yet informed the African Union of its decision.

``Up to now, we have not been notified by the government. Therefore we can't comment on this at present,'' he said.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government. The government is accused of unleashing Arab militiamen known as janjaweed who have been blamed for widespread atrocities.

U.N. officials and aid workers say the crisis has only deepened in recent months, with rape, killings and other attacks in Darfur at a new high. The United Nations has warned of hundreds of thousands of deaths if aid operations collapse. Twelve aid workers have been killed in Darfur this year, most in the last two months.

The Sudanese official news agency SUNA, meanwhile, quoted President al-Bashir as saying U.N. attempts to deploy peacekeepers was a bid by the international community to take over his country.

``Our decision is decisive rejection (of the U.N. resolution) then preparation for the confrontation (with the UN forces),'' SUNA quoted him as saying Sunday.