Egypt offers UN 750 troops to back up AU force in Darfur

Egypt's foreign minister offered to send 130 military supervisors in the next phase of UN troops to be sent to Sudan's Darfur region.

egyptian soldiers 88 (photo credit: )
egyptian soldiers 88
(photo credit: )
Egypt's foreign minister offered Friday to send 750 troops and 130 military supervisors in the next phase of UN troops to be sent to Sudan's troubled Darfur region, a foreign ministry statement said. The soldiers would be part of a 3,000-strong UN force that is scheduled to reinforce the 7,000 AU troops already in the region. The statement by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that Egypt's ministry of defense had made the offer to the United Nations and expected them to accept what he described as "big cooperation." Egypt, which has traditionally had good relations with neighboring Sudan, already has a small military force with the African Union in Darfur. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed in November to a three-phase UN plan to strengthen the AU force, but has opposed its full implementation. After five months of stalling, the Sudanese president recently gave the go-ahead for the second phase - a "heavy support package" with 3,000 UN troops, police and civilian personnel along with six attack helicopters. But he has backed off the deployment of the third and final phase - a 20,000-strong "hybrid" UN-AU force. The first phase, a light support package including UN police advisers, civilian staff and additional resources and technical support, has already been sent to Darfur. The undermanned and under-equipped AU force has been unable to stop fighting between the government and ethnic African rebels which began in 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-led Sudanese government, accusing it of neglect and discrimination. The government is accused of arming the Arab janjaweed militia as a counterinsurgency tactic, and the militiamen have been blamed for widespread rapes and killings of Darfur civilians. Last week, Aboul Gheit urged the UN Security Council not to rush to impose sanctions against Sudan over the Darfur crisis. Britain and the United States announced they would propose new sanctions after a UN report revealed Sudan's violation of Security Council resolutions. Russia, China and South Africa have also opposed new sanctions because of Sudan's recent agreement to the first significant deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur. In Friday's statement, Aboul Gheit reiterated that the way forward was to initiate talks between al-Bashir's government and rebel groups that did not sign a peace agreement on Darfur last year. The accord, signed in Abuja, Nigeria, by the government and a major rebel group, has failed to end to the bloodletting.