The North Atlantic Council of alliance ambassadors said they approved the "initial military options" for possible NATO support for the peacekeeping mission and said their efforts would center on military transport, training and planning.
Last week, the AU Commission's president, Alpha Oumar Konare, came to alliance headquarters to seek logistical NATO support but insisted that troops on the ground will be exclusively African. NATO endorsed such an approach Tuesday.
Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the crisis further with European Union foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He will try to get a more detailed assessment of the military needs in Darfur.
"Following that meeting, and based on further clarification and confirmation of the AU's requirements, the NAC will consider, as quickly as possible, more detailed options for support," the NATO statement said.
NATO is working closely with the E.U. and U.N. to prepare the mission and has said it wouldn't impose itself on the AU.
E.U. defense ministers meeting Monday also offered help with command planning, surveillance and housing for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 after rebels took up arms, complaining of discrimination by Sudan 's Arab-dominated government. The government is accused of responding by backing a scorched-earth counterinsurgency by Arab militias.
War-induced hunger and disease has killed more than 180,000 people, according to U.N. estimates. At least 2 million have been made homeless by the conflict. There is no firm estimate of the number killed in fighting.