KHARTOUM, Sudan – President Omar al-Bashir vowed on Tuesday that he will never allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur, his strongest rejection yet of the United Nations' plan to try to halt violence in the war-torn region.
"This shall never take place," al-Bashir said of the U.N. deployment. "These are colonial forces and we will not accept colonial forces coming into the country."
"They want to colonize Africa, starting with the first sub-Saharan country to gain its independence. If they want to start colonization in Africa, let them chose a different place," he told reporters at a press conference alongside South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Al-Bashir has shown great reluctance over the past months to allow peacekeepers into Darfur, and Tuesday's comments were his most direct rejection.
The U.N. wants to send a beefed-up peacekeeping forces to replace a 7,000-strong African Union force in conflict-wracked Darfur that has largely been unable to stop the violence there.
Nearly 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced in Darfur since rebel groups made up of ethnic Africans rose up against the Arab-led Khartoum government in early 2003. The government is accused of responding by unleashing Arab militias known as the janjaweed who have been accused of some of the worst atrocities — but it denies any involvement.