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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 04:35 GMT 05:35 UK
Darfur troops to arrive week late
Displaced children in Darfur
A million and a half people have fled their homes in Darfur
The arrival of armed African Union peacekeeping soldiers in Sudan's Darfur region has been put back by a week because of a lack of accommodation.

A force of about 300 Rwandan soldiers had been due to arrive on Sunday but Rwanda's foreign minister confirmed they would now arrive next weekend.

They will police a region where the UN says 70,000 people died of hunger and disease in the past 20 months.

On Sunday, Libya is hosting an African mini-summit on the crisis in Darfur.

Col Muammar Gaddafi has invited the leaders of Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt and Chad to the talks in Tripoli which are aimed at reviving negotiations between the Sudanese government and the rebels in Darfur.

"The idea is to work on both the government as well as the opposition... to soften their positions," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Abul Gheit, speaking in the Libyan capital.

Darfur rebels will not attend the summit but are in Tripoli for talks with the Libyan leader.

"We think Libya can play a very vital role," said Tag el-Din Bashir Nyam, a member of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement.

"[He] wants to listen directly to us so he can take some kind of an initiative."

Troops 'ready to go'

Preparations to house the Rwandan soldiers in Darfur were not made on time, Mr Muligande told The Associated Press.

Rwandan troops
A small force of unarmed peacekeepers is already on the ground
However, a construction company would start erecting tents this weekend and the troops should arrive "by next weekend".

"The soldiers are ready and we are prepared to send as many troops as the African Union wants," the Rwandan foreign minister added.

Earlier, the UN special envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, called for a much larger force to police the region.

The African Union hopes to have a 4,500-strong force in place by the end of November.

It already has about 300 unarmed Nigerian and Rwandan troops in place.

Figures queried

Sudan has queried the UN's figure of 70,000 deaths in Darfur since the start of a rebellion last year. That figure does not include deaths from violence.

More than 1.5m displaced
About 70,000 dead since February 2003
More at risk from disease, starvation and lack of aid
Arab militias accused of ethnic cleansing
Sudan blames rebels for starting conflict

David Nabarro, head of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) health crisis group, also said up to 10,000 people were dying in refugee camps each month.

However, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters on Saturday that the information was not correct.

"When we checked with the office of the WHO here they told us they have no information - this information never came from them," he said.

The US has accused the government in Khartoum of failing to prevent atrocities against black African civilians by the pro-government Janjaweed Arab militia.

Sudan denies the allegations.

Last month, the WHO gave an overall death toll for Darfur of 50,000, adding that only about 15% of deaths were due to attacks and violence.

The need in Sudan remains pressing

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