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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 January 2006, 15:04 GMT
Turabi attacks foreign presence
Children watch as three Canadian APCs arrive for the African Union mission in Darfur
African Union forces are in Darfur, but with a limited mandate
Veteran Sudanese Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi says his country has become weak and occupied by foreigners.

He said there were now so many foreign armies in Sudan it could no longer be considered independent.

Thousands of peacekeepers from the African Union and UN have been sent to Sudan to try to stabilise conflicts involving rebels and militia.

Mr Turabi's comments in a BBC interview come as Sudan celebrates 50 years of independence from the UK.

Conflict has dominated Sudan's years of independence, although a long-running civil war pitting the largely Christian south against the Muslim north ended in 2005.

Hassan al-Turabi
We have a record of how many armies you have in one country. Would you call that independence?
Hassan Turabi

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum says a highly centralised government has left those outside the capital complaining of underdevelopment and marginalisation, and that rebels and militia have thrived in outlying areas.

More than 6,000 African Union peacekeepers, with a limited mandate, have been deployed to the western Darfur region where conflict has raged since early 2003.

It has left tens of thousands of civilians dead and forced more than two million from their homes.

The government and pro-government Arab militias are accused of war crimes against the region's black African population.

The UN Security Council has called on Khartoum to disarm the militias and the International Criminal Court is investigating the alleged war crimes.

Controversial

"Look at Sudan now - it has tens of militias independent of the army. And we have so many African armies here... and other armies of the United Nations," Mr Turabi said.

"We don't have an army here. We have a record of how many armies you have in one country. Would you call that independence?"

Mr Turabi - a proponent of Sharia law - is a controversial figure in Sudanese politics and has spent much of the last five years in detention.

He was once a close colleague of President Omar al-Bashir but he lost out in a power struggle with him in 1999.

He was freed again in June 2005, after being held in connection with an alleged coup plot.




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