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Sudan rejects Canada's offer to send troops to Darfur

5/17/2005 9:33am

OTTAWA, May 16 (AFP) -- The Canadian government is baffled by Sudan's rejection of an offer last week to send military advisers to help in the troubled Darfur region, a senior government official said Monday.

In a release from its embassy in Ottawa, Sudan rejected Canadian Prime Minister Paul's proposal to send up to 100 military experts to support African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Darfur, expressing concern that it had only been consulted three days prior to the announcement.

"The unwavering position of the Sudanese government, in this connection, is categorically rejecting any deployment of non-African military personnel in Darfur region," the embassy stated.

It added however that "any logistical and financial support is most welcomed".

Canadian officials responded that they have kept in regular contact with the AU, Sudan and its embassy in Ottawa. Several Canadian special envoys to Sudan met with officials to discuss Darfur where up to 300,000 people have died since the beginning of 2003 and more than two million people have been displaced by fighting between rebels and government forces, according to UN estimates.

"Canada's offer should not come as a surprise to the Sudanese or the African Union with whom Canada has consulted extensively to put together a response (to the violence in Darfur)," said a senior official who asked to remain anonymous.

Prime Minister Paul Martin spoke directly with Sudan's President Omar Bashir on May 11 about possible assistance, the official said. "The objective is to save lives and assist the African Union," he said.

"Sudan wants its sovereignty respected. Our offer doesn't conflict with that."

On Thursday, Martin pledged 170 million dollars (136 million US dollars) in aid over two years to help bring peace to Sudan in addition to 90 million dollars (72 million US dollars) already committed by Canada last month.

Martin also announced that Canada would send 100 soldiers, helicopters and transport planes, to "operate in a technical and strategic support role to the African Union."

Canadian officials confirmed the Sudanese government had "registered questions" about experts being made available to the AU, but insisted Canada's plan would not be sidelined as a result.

Discussions with the Sudanese government and AU will continue, said the official. The AU is expected to say in the coming weeks what assistance it needs specifically.

"Once we have a clearer response from the African Union, then the Sudanese can be reassured as to the intent of Canada's offer," the official said.

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