Gaddafi: Int'l troops in Darfur 'colonialism'

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said the presence of United Nations troops in Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur region would be a return to "colonialism" and Sudan's army would do a better job than peacekeepers at stopping the violence. Gadhafi's comments on Sunday came as Khartoum appeared to be moving toward allowing a joint United Nations and African Union force to take over peacekeeping in Darfur from the ill-equipped and understaffed AU force currently deployed. "The presence of international forces in Darfur would be a new return to colonialism. ... Since when were the colonialist powers concerned about us? In the past, they treated us like animals and took us as slaves in their ships. ... If there is a need for an army to occupy Darfur, the Sudanese army is better than international forces," Gadhafi said. Sudan President Omar al-Bashir had for months flatly refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers to deploy in Darfur, describing them as "neo-colonialists" and invaders. But on Thursday UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Sudan had agreed in principle to a combined UN-AU force, which could provide for the addition of up to 17,000 soldiers and 3,000 police officers in Darfur. Currently, the AU has just 7,000 is in the region. Sudanese officials have sent confusing signals over the scope of the agreement, with Foreign Minister Lam Akol saying UN troops would play only a supportive role while others say a joint force is acceptable. Al-Bashir is due to visit Libya on Tuesday for a meeting on Darfur that Gadhafi is hosting with delegations expected from Sudan, Chad and Egypt. The conflict in Darfur has killed at least 200,000 people and forced about 2.5 million from their homes over the past three years. Recently, pro-government militia known as janjaweed have stepped up attacks on villages in Darfur, international observers said. The Sudanese army has denied any connection to the janjaweed attacks, but UN and AU officials accuse it of backing the militia and co-ordinating military operations with it.