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Sudan Calls on AU to Clarify Peacekeeping Role in Darfur
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The Sudanese government asked on Wednesday the African Union (AU) to clarify its peacekeeping role in Sudan's war-torn western region of Darfur.

The Sudanese government made the call on the eve of an upcoming meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council to be held in the Nigerian capital Abuja to look into the situation in Darfur.

Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir left Khartoum for Abuja on Wednesday evening to attend the meeting.

"We hope that the summit will come up with a clear decision on the AU force in Darfur in the next period and support to be provided by the United Nation to the AU force," Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters.

Mahjoub Fadel Badri, spokesman of the Sudanese president, announced that President el-Bashir would hold consultations with African leaders on ways of resolving the Darfur crisis on the sidelines of the Abuja summit.

"The president will reiterate Sudan's firm position of refusing deployment of UN peacekeeping force in Darfur and the necessity to support the AU force in technical and logistic fields to enable it to continue its mission until the Darfur problem is resolved," the spokesman said.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Aug. 31, calling for deployment of more than 20,000 international peacekeepers to replace the 7,800 AU force in Darfur, which is suffering lack of fund, equipment and experience.

The Sudanese government rejected the mission transfer, saying it is a violation of Sudan's sovereignty and an effort by the West to colonize the African oil producing country.

The AU Peace and Security Council agreed in September to extend the mandate of its force in Darfur to the end of this year with help of the United Nations and the international community.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has put forward a proposal of deploying a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, but the proposal has been turned down by Khartoum as "another version" of the UN deployment plan.

Meanwhile, Annan urged the world body's human rights watchdog to deal with violations in Darfur, instead of focusing only on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"You have focused especially on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which indeed has escalated during these months in ways that cause deep concern to us all," Annan told a regular session of the 47-state Human Rights Council.

"I hope, however, that the Council will take care to handle this issue in an impartial way, and not allow it to monopolize attention at the expense of others where there are equally grave or even graver violations," Annan said in a statement read by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.

Annan said besides the conflict in the Middle East, "there are surely other situations which would merit scrutiny by a special session of the Council."

"I would suggest that Darfur is a glaring case in point," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2006)

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