DETROIT – Sudan's president told attendees of the Nation of Islam's national conference via satellite Friday that the United States is exaggerating troubles in his country's volatile Darfur region so it can control the country as it has in Iraq.
President Omar al-Bashir was invited to speak at the three-day convention by representatives of longtime Nation leader Louis Farrakhan. Al-Bashir said he was using the address, which also was said to be broadcast live on Sudanese television, to call on the mass media and American public to learn the truth about his country.
"A number of governments, including the U.S., are putting pressure (on Sudan)," he said. "They're imposing solutions that don't respect the dignity of our nation."
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million been chased from their homes in Darfur since 2003, when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central Arab-led government.
Al-Bashir denied reports of ethnic cleansing among tribes and said Darfur is "quite calm." He said its problems are limited to a small section in the region's north.
He was enthusiastically greeted by several hundred people who chanted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," several times during his address.
Al-Bashir reiterated comments he made last week that he would not allow United Nations peacekeepers into his country. He suggested that Sudan could accept more African Union peacekeepers, with U.N. support.
A 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force has been trying to stop the ongoing violence in Darfur, but the force is underfunded and ill-equipped. Al-Bashir has rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for 22,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace the AU force.
He said the Security Council resolution would put "Sudan under the full mandate of foreign countries" and would give U.N. troops "the same position as coalition forces in Iraq."
Farrakhan's chief of staff, Leonard Farrakhan Muhammad, who extended the invitation to al-Bashir, said the speech was an important message for Nation members and others to hear.
"Whatever happens in Africa is the business of black people," he said. "Don't you dare suggest this is beyond the business of the Nation of Islam."