U.S. Dismisses Sudanese Threat Against U.N. Forces

The Bush administration on Friday dismissed a threat by Sudan's president to fire on any U.N. force sent to Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003.

The African Union, which has peacekeeping troops in the western Sudanese region, would make up the majority of an expanded U.N. force that wold benefit the Sudanese government as well as the people of Darfur, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.

"Ultimately, we believe that this is in the interest of all the participants in Sudan, including the government, and we expect that they will ultimately agree to let this go forward," he said.

A draft resolution by the United States and Britain was introduced at the United Nations on Thursday.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has warned that Sudan's army would fight any U.N. forces sent to Darfur, while Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry stressed that no U.N. force would be deployed in Darfur without the consent of the government.

Casey said the Sudanese government has said in the past it would welcome the U.N. forces to help monitor and enforce a peace agreement. "That's what we are trying to do here," the spokesman said.

"And, ultimately, we believe that is not only what should happen but that is what will happen," Casey said.

With violence escalating in Darfur, Jones Parry said he hopes the resolution can be adopted by the end of August.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jackie Sanders said the Sudanese government's consent was not required by the resolution, but "practically speaking it's going to be useful to have the government on board to get this accomplished."

The resolution would replace the 7,000-strong African Union force with a U.N. peacekeeping mission of about 22,600 — comprising up to 17,300 troops, 3,300 international police officers, and 16 police units trained in riot and crowd control totaling about 2,000 officers.

A peace agreement signed in May by the government and one of the major rebel groups was supposed to help end the conflict in Darfur. Instead, it has sparked months of fighting between rival rebel factions. More than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government.

In New York, the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, Mark Malloch Brown, said, "We are extremely worried about the deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur, and the absence of a clear political path to the deployment o the U.N. force."

"It is very important that we all pay lots of attention to Darfur," he said. "Something very ugly is brewing there."