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Sudanese president to allow U.N. forces

The helicopters and 3,000 troops will be the first U.N. presence since the fighting began.

Associated Press
Published April 17, 2007


UNITED NATIONS - Sudan on Monday accepted the deployment of U.N. attack helicopters and 3,000 peacekeepers in Darfur, the first time it has allowed a significant injection of U.N. forces to help African troops struggling to bring peace to the region.

The United Nations and United States have been pushing Sudan to accept thousands more U.N. troops to build a combined African Union-U.N. force of 20,000. China, which buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil and has veto powers at the United Nations, has also increasingly leaned on Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has repeatedly rejected a U.N. force, but his agreement to the 3,000 troops could be a sign that the pressure is beginning to have an effect.

The Sudanese government, however, has frequently reversed position after appearing to agree to a peacekeeping mission. Bashir has said the deployment of U.N. troops would violate Sudan's sovereignty, and many believe he fears the U.N. force would arrest Sudanese officials suspected of war crimes in Darfur.

The current force of 7,000 African Union peacekeepers has been unable to stop the fighting in a region the size of Texas. More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5-million have been displaced in the four-year conflict, which began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central government.

The government is accused of responding by unleashing the janjaweed militias of Arab nomads, which are blamed for indiscriminate killing. The government denies the charges.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, ending a three-day visit to Sudan on Monday, reiterated accusations that the government in Khartoum was actively supporting the janjaweed militia. He also said Sudan was hindering efforts to help refugees.

Ali al-Sadiq, a spokesman for Sudan's Foreign Ministry, said the United Nations had to send a team to Khartoum to work out deployment details.