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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 02:12 GMT
Sudan president rejects UN troops
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir
Mr Bashir said the Darfur crisis was invented by Western media
Sudan's president has rejected plans for a joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Speaking from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, Omar al-Bashir said he would only accept African troops under African Union leadership.

He also denied reports that more than 200,000 people have died in Darfur, putting the death toll at under 9,000.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said this month that Sudan had in principle backed a hybrid peacekeeping force.

Map

There are currently 7,000 African Union troops who have failed to halt the violence.

Plans to beef up this force and eventually turn it into a hybrid force are well advanced. Diplomats at the UN are now said to be assessing the implications of Mr Bashir's comments.

Speaking through a translator, President Bashir said he would only accept logistical and financial support for the current African Union mission.

He also reiterated his opposition to UN Security Council resolution 1706, which calls for 20,000 soldiers and police to be sent into Darfur.

"We will work with the UN as we have a lot of work with the UN, but this does not mean that we accept this resolution as it is a resolution that will return colonialism to Sudan," Mr Bashir said.

"The focus should be on implementing the [Abuja] agreement, and we do not accept the referral of the AU mission to UN troops."

Aid 'industry'

Mr Bashir's two-and-a-half hour news conference was broadcast live to eight capital cities around the world, including London, Washington, Paris and Berlin.

We do not say that there is no problem and that there are refugees and displaced, but any talk of a humanitarian crisis is not true
Omar al-Bashir
Sudanese president

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum says Mr Bashir believes the Darfur crisis is the invention of the Western media, designed to deflect attention from military problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We do not say that there is no problem and that there are refugees and displaced, but any talk of a humanitarian crisis is not true," he said.

"They say that more than 200,000 thousand have been killed in Darfur, we affirm that this number is not true and that... the number of deaths has not reached 9,000.

Those who argue that the situation on the ground is deteriorating are liars, Mr Bashir said, with only five out of Darfur's 22 localities affected by violence.

Mr Bashir said he believes only a few thousand more people need to be deployed to Darfur.

And he criticised the vast humanitarian operation in Darfur, feeding two million people, which he said has become an industry.

According to President Bashir, aid agencies were fabricating reports of attacks and mass rape in order to expand their operations.

The refugees are mostly black Africans whose villages have been attacked by militias made up of nomadic Arab herdsmen.

Khartoum denies accusations it is backing the militias to put down an uprising by Darfur's rebel groups in 2003.

The UN estimates that at least 200,000 people have died from the effects of the three-and-a-half year war. The US accuses the Sudan government of genocide, though a UN investigation did not reach this conclusion.

UN aid chief Jan Egeland said last week that the number of people in "desperate need" of aid in Darfur had risen to 4 million, compared to 1 million two years ago.




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