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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 August, 2004, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Sudan masses defiant over Darfur
Sudanese march in protest against Western intervention
Protesters want the rebels, not just Arab militias, disarmed
Tens of thousands of people have marched through the Sudanese capital Khartoum to protest against any Western intervention in war-ravaged Darfur.

The government-backed protesters said they were ready to die in a jihad if any Western troops entered the country.

"Darfur will be a foreign graveyard," said one placard spotted by BBC correspondent Paul Wood at the protest.

The African Union says it has boosted the armed force it plans to send to Darfur from 300 to 2,000 troops.


The United Nations has demanded Sudan take action over what has been called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In a Security Council resolution, it gave the Sudanese government 30 days to disarm the Arab militias, called Janjaweed, that have driven hundreds of thousands of black Africans from their villages in the west of the country.

Sudanese refugees carry water containers on their head, Chad
The UN says refugees, especially women, have been intimidated
Our correspondent in Khartoum says the Sudanese government will be emboldened by the popular support on show at Wednesday's street rally to reject the demands unless rebels from the Darfur region are disarmed as well.

He says several ministers of state and senior politicians took part in the government-organised march to the United Nations building in Khartoum.

A group of youths was also seen wearing black shirts and red headbands marked "martyrs brigades".

Broader mission?

Meanwhile, an African Union (AU) spokesman said the organisation was prepared to strengthen the size of the force it plans to deploy to Darfur, which is not opposed by Sudan.

"The AU plans to increase troop strength of its protection force for Darfur from 300 to 2,000, with Nigeria and Rwanda offering to send 1,000 troops each," Adam Thiam told the Reuters news agency.

He said the force's mission could also be broadened from protecting ceasefire observers to a wider peacekeeping role, if given official AU approval.

1m displaced
Up to 50,000 killed
More at risk from disease and starvation
Arab militias accused of ethnic cleansing
Sudan blames rebels for starting conflict

On Wednesday the UN World Food Programme said the first of 16 flights carrying aid to several points in Darfur region took off from an air base in southern Italy.

The planes contain equipment that will allow aid workers to set up operations in different locations across Darfur.

UN aid workers said on Tuesday that government officials were continuing to intimidate displaced people to try to force them to return to their villages from camps within Darfur.

An independent aid agency, Save The Children (STC) USA, has reported a string of attacks in the al-Junaynah area of western Darfur, where there is a heavy Sudanese police presence.

Displaced people have been shot at or physically attacked, even raped, while a clearly marked STC vehicle came under fire in the town's market place on Monday night.

No-one was hurt in the shooting but the ceasefire between government forces and rebels in the area appears more and more untenable, the BBC's Jihan Alayly reports from al-Junaynah.

The United Nations says up to 50,000 people have died since the conflict erupted last year.

More than a million people are thought to have been displaced, around 200,000 of whom have crossed into refugee camps in neighbouring Chad.

The BBC's Paul Wood
"Sudan's government feels threatened, so has called their supporters to the streets"

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