Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Wednesday, August 16, 2006
"We oppose the deployment of American, British or other forces imposed by the Security Council," Sudan's state news agency quoted President Omar al-Bashir as saying in an address to the North African country's armed forces.
"We are determined to defeat any forces entering the country just as Hizballah has defeated the Israeli forces," he said, echoing the view expressed by Syria, Iran and Hizballah itself that the recent conflict in Lebanon had ended in victory for the terrorist group.
The Sudan Tribune said Bashir also has reaffirmed Sudanese "solidarity" with the Lebanese and Palestinians.
The U.N. estimates that more than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur since fighting erupted between the government and several rebel groups in 2003. Two million more have been displaced, and both rebels and notorious government-sponsored militias have been accused of abuses against civilians.
The government and one rebel faction signed a peace agreement last May, but the violence has continued - and in some ways has worsened, with rebel groups fracturing and turning on each other as well, leading to a worsening humanitarian situation, according to aid groups.
A small, underfunded African Union (A.U.) force has been monitoring the agreement, but the organization wants to hand over to a U.N. force by October.
Last week, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack reaffirmed that the U.S. backed the A.U. position and was "pushing hard at the U.N. and elsewhere to try to make that happen."
The force envisaged by U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan will largely come from African and Asian nations, with support from developed countries.
Annan said in a report to the Security Council that a U.N. mission would need between 15,300 and 18,600 troops, depending on the required deployment speed and levels of troop density.
He said the force would focus primarily on protecting civilians, including the large number of internally-displaced people currently living in camps.
Pointing to the need to get Sudan's consent, Annan said "the United Nations has no
hidden agenda ... beyond the urgent need to help the population and prevent the crisis from spreading further."
It would be deployed to help the parties to implement the peace agreement, "not to occupy the country."
He urged Khartoum not to misrepresent the aims of the U.N. for political ends.
New York-based non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch says the Security Council should impose sanctions on senior Sudanese officials.
"The council should impose personal, targeted sanctions on top Sudanese officials responsible for preventing U.N. troops from being sent to Darfur," said the group's Africa director, Peter Takirambudde, in a statement Monday.
The statement suggested strongly that Bashir should be among those targeted, calling him "the most powerful actor" in a government that had "defied the Security Council for two years."
Currently only four individuals have been subjected to sanctions over Darfur. A travel ban and assets freeze were imposed last April against a Sudanese military officer, the leader of a pro-government militia, and two rebel commanders.
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