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Deployment of UN peacekeepers to Sudan premature - Khartoum

CAIRO, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - Sudan's leadership believes that holding talks with the UN on deploying a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping contingent in the rebellious province of Darfur is premature, Sudan's envoy to the UN said Tuesday.

The UN passed a resolution in late August 2006 to deploy troops in the western region of Darfur in a bid to end the fighting there between the local African population and Arab Janjaweed militia, which broke out in 2003 and has so far claimed 200,000 lives and created 2.5 million refugees.

Following the adoption of the resolution, Sudan said it was opposed to the deployment of peacekeepers.

Sudan's UN ambassador, Abdel Mahmoud Abdel Halim, told an Egyptian newspaper that the international organization should first fully carry out its obligations to render technical assistance to African peacekeepers, and said it is still possible to settle the Darfur conflict internally.

"For now, the UN has fulfilled its commitments to render technical assistance to the African forces in Darfur only by 65%," he said, adding that the first stage of a cooperation plan between the UN, Khartoum and the African Union in Darfur should be completed first and all mistakes corrected.

"In this connection, it's too early to speak about implementation of the second and all the more third stages of cooperation envisioning deployment of joint peacekeeping forces in the west of Sudan," the Sudanese diplomat said.

In May 2006, the Sudanese government and some of Darfur's rebels, with mediation from the African Union, concluded a peace agreement in Nigeria calling for a halt to the fighting and the start of a transitional period for the Sudanese province's return to peaceful life.

Despite that, clashes between rebels and Arab mercenaries supported by Khartoum have continued, as well as attacks on civilians.

The UN has insisted on replacing the 7,000-African peacekeeping contingent with a 20,000-strong joint peacekeeping force made up of UN and African Union troops, but Khartoum has called the plans "a new form of African colonization" and tried to thwart the deployment of foreign armed forces in the country's west.

However, under strong international and regional pressure Sudan's leadership recently agreed to implement a plan for three-way cooperation between Khartoum, the UN and the African Union, which envisions the deployment of joint military forces in the rebellious province in the long run.

In line with the plan, the UN would in the first stage render technical and financial support to the African military in Darfur. The second stage would involve the deployment of another 3,000 UN peacekeepers, and the third stage would double that number.

Khartoum has so far agreed only to implement the first and second cooperation stages. Sudanese authorities still hope to stop the internal conflict on their own.

On Monday, an adviser to the Sudanese leader said any military operations would be suspended in Darfur for two months so that all of Darfur's rebel movements could join the peace agreement of May 2006.

The UN sees no other way to settle Sudan's internal conflict than through international involvement.

High-ranking UN officials have made a number of trips to the region recently trying to influence the Sudanese leadership to accept the implementation of international plans.

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