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Sudan ready to fund AU peacekeepers in Darfur for 6 months

July 3, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared his country prepared to bear the cost of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur as an alternative to a United Nations force, Sudan’s official news agency SUNA reported Sunday.

Omar al-Bashir

Al-Bashir made the pledge to Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade during a meeting between the two leaders in Banjul, Gambia, the agency said. The pair were attending the AU summit there that ended Sunday.

Sudan was prepared to foot the bill for the forces for the next six months during which al-Bashir predicted the security situation would improve and there would be no need to deploy troops under the U.N, SUNA reported.

Al-Bashir is vehemently opposed to allowing international forces into the Darfur where the conflict has claimed around 300,000 lives and rendered some 2 million people homeless since it began in 2003.

The 7,000-member force of African Union peacekeepers has been in Darfur for months, but it has been too small and underequipped to bring calm to the vast area of about 150,000 square miles.

The Sudanese leader also complained Sunday that the international community was not doing enough to persuade those rebel factions that did not sign the Darfur Peace Agreement to join the process.

"Sudan was expecting to see intensive efforts to boost the peace deal and to exercise pressure on the groups that have refused to sign the deal," SUNA reported al-Bashir as saying.

Ethnic African rebel groups rose up against the Arab-led Khartoum government in early 2003. The government is accused of responding by unleashing Arab militias known as the janjaweed who have been accused of some of the conflict’s worst atrocities - but it denies any involvement.

(ST/AP)