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African Union Discusses Darfur Aid

March 10, 2006

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) _ Sudan’s foreign minister implored the African Union on Friday to refuse to let the United Nations take over peacekeeping operations in Sudan’s Darfur region.

European Union, U.S. and African officials have been urging Sudan to allow a large U.N. peacekeeping force to replace the African Union mission, which has been hampered by severe funding and logistical problems.

But Minister for Foreign Affairs Lam Akol Ajawin said such a transition would show that Africans cannot solve their own problems.

``The transition of the mission to the United Nations will represent a serious setback for the AU,″ he told African foriegn ministers gathered at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia to discuss the proposed handover.

``Sending any foreign and non-African forces to Darfur would encourage the rebel movements to adopt more intransigent positions.″

Darfur’s conflict, described by the United Nations as the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis, has left more than 180,000 people dead and 2 million displaced.

The African Union has 7,000 peacekeepers in the country, and their mandate expires at the end of the month.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Thursday that the U.S. focus in the last 10 days ``has been to avoid a situation where the AU changes or obscures its initial decision in principle to welcome the rehatting″ of the AU force.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese marched through Khartoum on Wednesday, protesting the plan. The Sudanese government has also been lobbying African leaders to keep the peacekeepers under an AU command.

``If the U.N. arrives the troubles will spread in the region,″ Mohamed Elsamani, Sudan’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said in Nairobi on Wednesday.

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