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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 13:55 GMT
Sudan rejects UN Darfur criticism
Chinese peacekeepers arrive in southern Darfur (24 November 2007)
The joint UN-African Union force has already started to arrive in Darfur
Sudan has rejected a complaint by the United Nations that it is delaying the deployment of a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force to Darfur.

The Sudanese undersecretary for foreign affairs, al-Samani Wasila, told the BBC that Khartoum was astonished because it had been doing all it could to assist.

Mr Wasila said land had been allocated and equipment delivered to the site.

Earlier, the UN secretary general said he had been deeply disappointed by the Sudanese government's "foot-dragging".

We find this disappointment amazing because we have gone a long way along the road to facilitating the deployment of these troops
al-Samani Wasila
Sudanese government

Ban Ki-moon said he would send two high-level envoys to the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon to press Sudan to accept non-African contingents from Thailand, Nepal, Sweden and Norway in the peacekeeping force which is due to be fully deployed in January.

It is not clear whether the envoys will meet the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who will be at the summit.

Mr Ban also said the new mission had been held back by its lack of 24 helicopters, vital for operating in a war-torn region the size of France.

The 26,000-strong force will replace the AU observer mission struggling to protect civilians in the western Sudanese province, where more than 200,000 people have died since 2003. A further 2m people have fled their homes.

'Jumping ahead'

In an interview with the BBC Arabic Service, Mr Wasila said the Sudanese government had been "baffled" by Mr Ban's criticism.

"We find this disappointment amazing because we have gone a long way along the road to facilitating the deployment of these troops," he said.

Members of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) stand in front of an armoured personnel car in Darfur (8/11/2007)
The African Union observer mission in Darfur is overstretched

"Most of the equipment, which has arrived in Sudan, is already on site. Plots of land have been allocated for these troops. Most of the measures required are being implemented," he added.

Mr Wasila also dismissed claims by UN Security Council diplomats that Khartoum is raising objections to the deployment of non-African peacekeepers because it does not want the force to be credible.

He insisted more than enough troops had been pledged by other African nations.

"Africa has secured 200% of these troops. For example, the unit they want to bring in from Europe is ranked fourth, that is to say after the Chinese troops, the Pakistani troops and the Egyptian troops," he said.

"Why don't they get these troops first and leave the other troops out? They are jumping ahead."

Earlier, Sudan's ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, said the organisation was trying to excuse its own failings by blaming delays on his government.

Mr Mohamad also dismissed calls by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for the arrest of the Sudanese Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmad Harun, and the leader of the pro-government Janjaweed militia, Ali Kuchayb, for involvement in attacks on civilians in Darfur.

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