January 13, 2006

Sudan says US force in Darfur unwelcome

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan on Friday rejected a suggestion
by U.N. head Kofi Annan that U.S. and European troops be sent
to Darfur, saying the international community should give more
cash to African forces already on the ground.

"We think that the African Union is doing a good job and so
far they have not said they are unable to do that job," Foreign
Minister Lam Akol told Reuters.

"Naturally what should happen is to give them the money
they want, not to complicate matters by involving another force
on the ground," he said.

But one of two main Darfur rebel groups, the Sudan
Liberation Army (SLA), said it would welcome U.S. troops.

"If the Americans came they would be preferable to the
African Union who so far have failed in their duties to protect
civilians," SLA Vice President al-Raya Mahmoud Juma'a said.

"They (the African Union) have enough forces and equipment,
but they still cannot do their job and stop the attacks," he
told Reuters from Darfur.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Thursday he
wanted the United States and European countries to help form a
tough mobile force to stop the rape, killing and looting in
Darfur, western Sudan, which Washington has termed genocide.

The African Union has 7,000 peacekeeping troops in Darfur,
a region the size of France, but after an assessment mission
there last month, the 53-member African body said it only had
enough funds until March.

The AU depends on donor countries to fund its mission to
monitor a tentative truce in the region, where violence has
driven more than 2 million from their homes.

But Annan said the killings and rape were continuing, and
the United Nations had started contingency planning to take
over the AU mission, although the African Union and U.N.
Security Council would have to agree first.

Asked whether that would include rich countries like the
United States and European nations, he said "Those are the kind
of countries with the kind of capabilities we will need, so
when the time comes, we will be turning to them."

Tens of thousands have been killed in Darfur since mostly
non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing the central
government of neglect. Khartoum denies U.S. charges of
genocide, but the International Criminal Court is investigating
alleged war crimes there.

If there were to be any significant deployment of U.S.
troops in Darfur, it would be Washington's first major foray
into African peacekeeping since it quit Somalia in 1994.

But Russia and China, whose support would be needed in any
Security Council resolution to deploy additional troops, have
traditionally opposed sending non-African forces to Darfur.

Akol said the AU was a peace monitoring force and Sudan did
not need the military power of the United States in Darfur.

"What would they do other than what the African forces can
do?" he said. "We are not looking for a force who is going to
fight," he added.