September 4, 2006

Sudan says AU can stay in Darfur but not under UN

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan will allow African Union troops
to remain in its turbulent Darfur region but only if their AU
mandate was extended beyond September 30 and not as part of a
U.N. force, a presidential advisor said on Monday.

Sudan raised alarms that its turbulent west could descend
into full-blown war after a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on
Sunday AU troops monitoring a shaky ceasefire must leave when
their mandate expired. The spokesman called the decision final.

Presidential Advisor Mustafa Osman Ismail said the
government was responding to the AU's stated position that it
could not sustain its 7,000 troops in Darfur beyond its

"The AU has refused to extend its mandate beyond September
30. If they don't want to extend their mandate, they have to
go," he said.

One African diplomat said the government softened its
position overnight because they realized expelling the AU would
end all implementation of an AU-brokered May peace deal.

"I am sure the Foreign Ministry spokesman and others were
not talking from the tops of their heads yesterday," the
diplomat said.

A U.S-British backed U.N. resolution passed on Thursday,
which Khartoum rejects, said more than 20,000 U.N. troops would
take over peacekeeping from AU forces who have been unable to
end the violence that has ravaged Darfur for 3 1/2 years.

AU troops were expected to fill the gap before the arrival
of the U.N. and ultimately be absorbed into the U.N. operation
according to the resolution.

Ismail said the government rejected that transition and
argued the U.N. mandate's goal was "regime change."

"Sudan will not accept those troops to be transformed into
part of a U.N. force," he said.

"Monitoring the borders ... protection of civilians ...
creating an independent judiciary has all become the
responsibility of the international forces, so what is left for
the government?" he said, referring to clauses in the U.N.

"The United States has a clear strategy ... of trying to
weaken this government ... or trying to change the government,"
Ismail told reporters.


Washington calls the rape, pillage and murder that has
forced 2.5 million from their homes in Darfur genocide and
blames the government and its allied militia known locally as

Khartoum rejects the charge but the International Criminal
Court (ICC) is investigating alleged war crimes in Darfur,
where tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Critics say Khartoum fears U.N. troops would be used to
arrest officials likely to be indicted by the ICC.

Aid workers and security analysts say the violence has
escalated since the peace deal signed in May by one of three
negotiating rebel factions.

Former rebels who are now part of government with the
dominant National Congress Party said they did not agree with
the decision to ask the AU to leave.

"It is endangering the Darfur peace agreement and
endangering Sudan's relations with the African and the
international community," said Yasser Arman, spokesman for the
Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

He said there had been no consultation on the decision with
the partners in government such as the SPLM and the former
Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), which recently
joined government after the May deal.

"The SPLM does not want a confrontation with the
international community," he added.

Local papers quoted SLM leader Minni Arcua Minnawi as
calling the decision "a violation of the Darfur peace deal."
The African Union said they still had no official notification
of the decision taken Sunday night.

Minnawi was part of a group of mostly non-Arab rebels who
took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of
marginalizing arid Darfur.

The EU's executive Commission called on Sudan on Monday to
recognize the broad international consensus for the AU to hand
over to a stronger U.N. mission, citing the deteriorating
humanitarian situation in Darfur.

(additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Brussels)