Al-Bashir links Darfur push to US Middle East policy

SUDAN’S president has lashed out at the US and Britain, saying Washington’s plans to create a “new Middle East” were behind an international push to replace African Union peacekeepers with United Nations troops in war-torn Darfur.

President Omar al-Bashir has always opposed UN intervention in Sudan’s remote Darfur region, but he has escalated his anti-Western rhetoric in an appeal to muster domestic support for what he implied would be a lengthy stand-off with the international community.

In a speech to cabinet ministers and journalists in Khartoum, Mr al-Bashir said the US and Britain wanted to recraft the region in Israel’s interests.

“They want to use the Darfur issue to re-colonise Sudan,” Mr al-Bashir said.

At least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million chased from their homes in Darfur, an arid remote region of western Sudan where the government-backed Arab Janjaweed militia are blamed for what international observers — including the US government and the European parliament — have called a genocide against ethnic African villagers.

Mr al-Bashir praised the African Union’s extension of its peacekeeping mission in Darfur as “a major victory”.

The under funded and ill-equipped AU mission was due to end on September 30, but has been extended until at least the end of the year.

The AU yesterday announced it would send an extra 4,000 troops to Sudan, increasing its presence there to 11,000.

Sudan’s vice president Salva Kiir said, meanwhile, said in a statement issued yesterday that a UN peacekeeping force was vital for the protection of civilians in Darfur, putting himself at odds with Mr al-Bashir.

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