Home | News    Wednesday 13 October 2004

Australia offers C-130 aircraft to send troops to Sudan conflict

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By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press Writer

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct 13, 2004 (AP) --- Australia has offered two military transport aircraft to help ferry African peacekeeping troops into the war-ravaged Darfur region in western Sudan, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Two C-130 Hercules transport planes were offered to the 53-nation African Union to move soldiers and equipment into Darfur, but the African organization had yet reply, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said.

"We have offered two C-130s to take African Union troops into Darfur," the spokesman said on the usual condition of anonymity.

The African Union plans to increase its peacekeeping force in Darfur from 300 to 3,500 troops, and is expected to discuss expanding its mission at a meeting next Wednesday.

The spokesman could not confirm a media report that several hundred Australian Defense Force personnel could also be deployed to Darfur, saying no numbers have been decided yet and Australia was waiting for the African Union to say whether it is accepting Canberra’s offer.

Australia has been critical of what it sees as a lack of action by the United Nations in Darfur, in what is regarded as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 50,000 people have been killed and another 1.4 million have been driven from their homes by Arab militias since February 2003.

Originally a clash between African farmers and Arab nomads, the conflict has grown into a counterinsurgency in which pro-government Arab militia have raped, killed and burned the villages of their enemy.

Australia has donated 20 million Australian dollars (US$14.6 million; euros 11.8 million) in emergency aid to the Darfur victims through United Nations aid agencies since May, the spokesman said.

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