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Sudan: Government Warns Against Foreign Troop Intervention As Pressure Mounts

Sudan has warned it will retaliate against any foreign troops sent to stop violence in the country's western Darfur region, the site of a huge humanitarian crisis. RFE/RL reports that the warning comes as the international community steps up pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the fighting between rebels and government-backed Arab militias.

28 July 2004 -- The warning came from Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail. He said on a visit to Turkey on 27 July that Sudan is not looking for a confrontation. But he added a condition: "But if we are forced to do so, if we are being attacked, definitely we are not going to sit silent and we will retaliate and hit back. But we hope that we are not going to reach that situation."

There's growing international pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the fighting in Darfur between rebels and government-backed Arab militias.

The fighting has killed up to 30,000 people -- most of them black Africans. It has also driven more than a million from their homes and created what the United Nations is calling the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis.

The U.S. Congress has said genocide is under way and said a multinational force should go to Darfur. Britain has said it could send 5,000 troops to the region if required.

But no western state has said it favors sending troops yet. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday that it's still too early to consider military intervention.

And French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, called for talks instead of force during a visit to Chad and Sudan yesterday:
"My conviction is that we cannot get out of this crisis, to avoid a humanitarian tragedy, without Sudan."

Earlier this month, Sudan promised United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan that it would disarm the militias and improve security in Darfur.

The international community is now discussing how to pressure the government into honoring its commitments.

The United States is due to present a new version of a draft resolution on Darfur to the UN Security Council that will call for sanctions against Sudan if it does not stop the violence.

It sets a timetable for apprehending the Arab militias, known as janjawid, and bringing them to justice. There's expected to be opposition to the resolution from Security Council members China and Pakistan, who say Sudan needs more time to rein in the militias.

But as talks to solve the crisis go on, Sudanese refugees continue to flee into neighboring Chad, putting additional pressure on already overcrowded camps.

Many, like Arabad Gamar Ibrahim, say they do not have proper shelter: "We left the country and came over to Chad. We have suffered from hunger and weather. And we do not have shelter to live in, and we are suffering because of all of that."

U.S. Representative Stuart Holliday said he has told council members to expect a vote on the resolution on 29 or 30 July.

(wire agencies)