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Britain welcomes Canada aid to Darfur, pledges more support

5/14/2005 5:58am

LONDON, May 13 (AFP) -- Britain praised Canada's pledge of aid to boost African peacekeeping efforts in Sudan's war-wracked Darfur region, saying London was also ready to offer further assistance.

"We warmly welcome the Canadian announcement of extra support for the African Union (AU) in Darfur. The crisis still remains a top priority for the British government," said joint a statement from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Development Secretary Hilary Benn.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said Thursday his country would give 136 million US dollars (107 million euros) over two years to Darfur, adding to 72 million US dollars Ottawa committed last month in support of a peace deal which ended the longer-lasting civil war in southern Sudan.

Canada also is to supply planes, helicopters and material for African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, as well as 100 of its own troops for both southern Sudan and Darfur.

Britain has given 14 million pounds (26 million dollars, 21 million euros) of assistance to the African Union mission observing a ceasefire between rebels and government-backed forces in the vast western region, and said it was preparing to give more this year.

Its total pledge for aid to Sudan and eastern Chad, which is dealing with the refugee exodus from neighboring Darfur, is 100 million pounds for 2005.

"The AU is preparing a list of further needs for the international community to support. We will respond positively to this," Straw and Benn said Friday.

As many as 300,000 may have died in the more than two years of violence in Darfur, which began when rebels rose up against the government in February 2003 and were put down with the help of pro-government militias.

More than two million people have been displaced, many into squalid and dangerous camps that are still targeted by the militias, known as Janjaweed.

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