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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 February 2007, 02:42 GMT
Sudan leader accuses US on Darfur
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (file image)
Mr Bashir has rejected a UN move to send peacekeepers
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has accused the US and the West of exaggerating the level of conflict in the country's troubled Darfur region.

He said media reports of hundreds of thousands of fatalities were false.

Speaking via satellite to a conference in Detroit, he said that his government welcomed help on Darfur, but not at the expense of its sovereignty.

Some 200,000 people have died there and more than two million have fled since the start of the four-year conflict.

The United Nations wants to send more than 20,000 peacekeepers to Darfur to reinforce a struggling African Union force, but Mr Bashir has refused.

He has repeatedly denied backing the Janjaweed militias, who are accused of carrying out widespread atrocities there.

'Media distortion'

The Sudanese leader was addressing the national conference of the American Muslim organisation, Nation of Islam, at the invitation of controversial leader Louis Farrakhan.

Map of Darfur region

He said he was speaking to a US audience because he wanted to correct the "campaign of distortion by the media" towards Sudan.

He dismissed reports of ethnic cleansing, saying: "Talk of Arabs killing blacks is a lie."

And he accused the West of exaggerating the number of casualties.

"A lot of organisations and the American media refer to imaginary numbers, up to 400,000 dead," he said. "All these are false."

He later said the number was closer to 9,000, Reuters news agency reported.

Mr Bashir also accused the international community of unfairly pressurising his government.

"We welcome the help of everyone to solve our problems, including the problem of Darfur, but not at the expense of our sovereignty and the unity of our homeland," he said.

"Those who want to topple the government in Khartoum, we will not allow them to do so," he warned.

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