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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Big boost to Darfur peace force
African Union peacekeeper
But the peacekeepers will not have a stronger mandate
The African Union has agreed to more than double the number of its peace monitors in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur.

By September, the force should be 7,700-strong, which could be further increased to 12,000, an official said.

There are currently just 2,200 troops, with another 1,000 expected next month, to monitor an area the size of France.

The two-year conflict has left some 180,000 people dead and two million people have fled their homes.

'Promote peace'

The peacekeepers are monitoring a ceasefire signed a year ago, which both Darfur rebels and pro-government Arab militias regularly violate.

"These extra troops will further promote a more secure environment and help build confidence as well as protecting civilians," said AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit.

He said that Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Senegal have all promised to send extra troops.

The UN's Sudan envoy says the peacekeepers have made a difference where they are present but they are too few to cover such a large area.

Jan Pronk also submitted a report saying that 12,000 troops were needed in Darfur by early next year - but they should have a stronger mandate.

"The AU presence has resulted in more stability where they are, but they have to be able to back their mediation with force," he said.

At its meeting in Addis Ababa, the AU did not discuss giving their peacekeepers more powers, which Sudan has opposed.

Earlier this week, the AU asked Nato for logistical and financial support for its mission in Darfur. Nato is considering the request.

The Sudan government says it would accept Nato logistical support but not the presence of non-African troops.

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