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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Darfur peace force 'needed now'
African Union commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare
Mr Konare said he was shocked by recent attacks
The African Union has called on Sudan to speed up plans for a new AU/UN peace force in Darfur where five Senegalese soldier were killed on Sunday.

So far, Sudan has blocked attempts to strengthen the AU force with UN troops.

AU commission head Alpha Oumar Konare said he was greatly concerned by the increasing number of attacks on the 7,000 AU peacekeepers in the region.

The weekend attack was the heaviest single loss the force has suffered since it was first deployed in 2004.

The four-year Darfur conflict between rebels and pro-government Arab militia has seen more than 200,000 people killed and at least 2.4 million displaced.

Unpopular

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum says the AU peacekeepers are overwhelmed by the complexity and scale of the conflict in Darfur.

An African Union soldier stands guard in the village of Goes Being in Darfur
The African Union force is struggling to halt the violence

On the ground they are unpopular and are being targeted and killed by rebel movements.

"If this trend continues, the peacekeeping operation in Darfur will be in serious jeopardy," Mr Konare warned in a statement.

"It has become imperative and unavoidable, in the present circumstances, to speedily implement the three-phase approach to the peacekeeping operation in Darfur," the statement continued.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir remains convinced that only African troops under African command can solve Darfur's problems.

Yet in the last month, our correspondent says, AU soldiers have been attacked twice in areas supposedly controlled by rebels who are part of last year's peace agreement.

Seven men have died, the last five at the weekend while defending a water point on the border with Chad.

A recent letter from President Bashir to the UN secretary-general queried almost all elements of the plan.

Among many reservations, Sudan's president objected to international aircraft being used to protect Darfur's civilians - that he said, would remain the responsibility of the national police force.




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