Sudan snubs US envoy sent to ease way for UN troops

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The Independent Online

A senior US diplomat left Sudan without meeting President Omar al-Beshir after Khartoum rejected demands that it approve the deployment of UN peacekeepers in war-torn Darfur.

US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer ended her mission to Sudan late on Sunday, a day before the UN Security Council was to discuss a draft resolution on the peacekeepers.

Frazer had been expected to deliver a message from US President George W. Bush to al-Beshir, apparently pressing the Sudanese president to end his rejection of the UN deployment.

But al-Bashir was unable to meet the American diplomat "due to his crowded schedule," the president's office said.

Instead, Frazer handed the message to presidential adviser Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmed, who in turn gave her a message from al-Bashir repeating his rejection of the UN force, presidential spokesman Mahjub Badry, told reporters.

The UN force is considered crucial to ending the bloodshed in Darfur, which has continued despite a fragile peace deal signed by the government and one of the ethnic African rebel groups operating in the region.

The mandate of a 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur ends on Sept. 30, and a draft resolution before the Security Council envisions replacing the AU force, whose mandate ends Sept. 30, with a larger and better equipped one under UN auspices. The poorly funded and supplied AU force has been unable to stem violence in Darfur.

Instead of the UN force, al-Bashir has called for the African peacekeepers to be strengthened - and he has said he plans to send Sudanese troops to Darfur to pacify the region.

A build-up of Sudanese troops in Darfur could lead to a human rights catastrophe, the London-based rights group Amnesty International warned Monday.

Witnesses in el Fasher in North Darfur have reported that Sudanese military flights have been flying in troops and arms to the region, said Kate Gilmore, Amnesty's executive deputy secretary general.

Gilmore called the Sudanese government's plan to deploy its own forces in Darfur a "sham" that the UN must reject.

More than 200,000 people have died the remote Darfur region since 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.

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