Darfur faces 'catastrophe'

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The Independent Online

The troubled Sudanese region of Darfur could be facing another human rights "catastrophe" if the government in Khartoum follows a plan to deploy 26,000 troops there, Amnesty International has warned.

The United Nations Security Council meets in New York today to discuss a plan to send 20,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, but Sudan has revealed its own "protection plan" for the millions of displaced people in refugee camps across the region. Amnesty said the build-up of Sudanese troopscould lead to a "human rights catastrophe" if not prevented.

Violence in Darfur has killed thousands of people and forced more than 2.5 million to flee their homes. There are 7,000 African Union troopsoverseeing the implementation of a peace agreement signed between the government and one of the rebel groups in May.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese President, has rejected the UN force with which the US and Britain want to replace the AU mission, likening it to a Western invasion. Instead, Sudan is believed to be ready to send 26,000 of its own troops to Darfur. Witnesses already report a military build up in the region.

Sudan's suspicion of the West was highlighted at the weekend when a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Paul Salopek, was charged in a Sudanese court with espionage. Mr Salopek, a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, was also accused of writing "false news" after he and two Chadian colleagues were arrested in Darfur three weeks ago.

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