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Canada plans Darfur peacekeeping mission

5/7/2005 5:50am

OTTAWA, May 6 (AFP) -- Canada is planning to send troops to troubled Darfur in western Sudan this year, the head of Canada's military General Rick Hillier said.

"This is a complex and relatively dangerous environment," Hillier told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. after recently meeting with leaders of the African Union, a group that will lead peacekeeping efforts in the region where the United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the past two years.

Hillier said he has more than 30 officers developing a plan, but refused to give details until after he meets with Canada's defense minister sometime this week.

Earlier this week, a Canadian newspaper quoting inside sources, reported that Prime Minister Paul Martin was directing the plan and it involved sending 100 military advisers to assist the African Union.

Martin met with an independent member of parliament, David Kilgour, a strong proponent of Canada getting more involved in Darfur. It is alleged that Martin offered to send troops to Darfur in exchange for Kilgour's support of the government, which is in jeopardy of being toppled by opposition parties seeking an election. Kilgour and Martin deny such an agreement exists.

The Canadian government has already pledged millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Darfur. Martin is expected to announce an increase in aid in coming days.

Martin said Wednesday that the conflict "is one of the most important tests as to how the West is prepared to come to the aid of Africa."

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