September 4, 2006

AU can stay in Darfur but not under UN: Sudan

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan said on Monday it would allow
African troops to remain in Darfur only under African Union
control and accused Washington of attempting "regime change" in
Khartoum by trying to bring in a U.N. force.

The head of the African Union mission monitoring a shaky
truce in the troubled Darfur region reaffirmed that the AU
presence would end on September 30.

Sudan raised fears its turbulent west could descend into
full-blown war by saying on Sunday AU troops must leave when
their mandate expired at the end of the month.

Presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail said on Monday
the government was merely responding to the AU's assertion that
it did not have the money or equipment to sustain its 7,000
troops in Darfur beyond the end of this month.

"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.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said later the Sudan
government had asked the AU to notify it within seven days
whether or not it would be in a position to continue the
peacekeeping mission beyond September 30.

The head of the AU mission in Sudan, Baba Gana Kingibe,
said soon afterwards in a speech in Khartoum: "The AU Peace and
Security Council met today in Addis Ababa and decided to
reaffirm that its mandate will end on September 30 in Darfur."

It was not immediately clear whether the AU comments meant
the force would indeed pull out or whether diplomatic efforts
would produce a deal that would allow it to stay.

One African diplomat said Sudan had softened its position
because it realized expelling the AU would end implementation
of an AU-brokered peace deal between it and one rebel faction.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton,
told CNN: "We're going to continue to put pressure on the
government of Sudan, work with the African Union and others who
are interested. We're not going to give up on these people."

A U.S. and British-backed United Nations resolution, which
passed last Thursday and was immediately rejected by Khartoum,
says more than 20,000 U.N. troops should take over peacekeeping
duties from AU forces which have been unable to end the
violence that has ravaged Darfur for 3-1/2 years.

AU troops were to fill the gap until the arrival of the
U.N. troops and ultimately be absorbed into the U.N. operation.


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 told reporters.

"Monitoring the borders ... protection of civilians ...
creating an independent judiciary have 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."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday criticized
the U.N. resolution, saying during a visit to AU headquarters
in Ethiopia that it "was taken in haste without continued
consultation with the government of Sudan."

Permanent Security Council member Russia abstained from
voting on the resolution.

Dave Mozersky, Sudan analyst for the International Crisis
Group think tank, said action like targeted sanctions had to be
taken to show Khartoum the United Nations was serious.

"(Khartoum) sees the international community as all bark,
no bite, and unfortunately they're right," he added.

The fighting in Darfur began when mostly non-Arab rebels
took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglect.
Since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Washington calls the rape, pillage and murder that have
forced 2.5 million from their homes genocide, and blames the
Sudanese 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.
Critics say Khartoum fears U.N. troops would be used to arrest
officials likely to be indicted by the ICC.

A peace agreement signed in May between the government and
one of three rebel factions was initially heralded as a
breakthrough. But aid workers and security analysts say
violence has escalated since the deal was signed.

On Sunday two students were killed and at least 10 were
injured in Darfur's main town el-Fasher as police violently
dispersed an attempt to protest in favor of U.N. troops.

"The police entered the (el-Fasher) university to disperse
the rally on the grounds that it was not permitted," a U.N.
report said on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Randall Mikkelsen in Washington)