Sudan bid for AU leadership is blocked

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Sudan's bid to head the African Union (AU) was blocked yesterday in a protest at the country's human rights abuses in Darfur. Ghana was chosen as the compromise candidate after the AU came under pressure from human rights groups and Western governments not to allow Sudan to assume the presidency.

Some 7,000 AU troops are struggling to stem the violence in Darfur and the head of the AU commission, Alpha Oumar Konaré, used his opening speech to attack Sudan for orchestrating the attacks on civilians.

"We appeal to the government of Sudan to stop attacking and bombarding Darfur and restore peace," he said.

It is not the first time that the crisis in Darfur has derailed Sudan's ambitions to head the AU. Khartoum was forced to withdraw in 2005 and in 2006 - although a deal struck last year paved the way for Sudan to take up the presidency in 2007 if Darfur's problems had subsided.