Bashir appeals for funding for AU-UN Darfur force

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CAPE TOWN, Nov 7 (Reuters) Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said today he was ready for the deployment of African Union and United Nations forces in Darfur but funding remained an obstacle.

''We have comprehensive agreements with the United Nations.

... All that is needed now is the execution of funding,'' Bashir told a joint news conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki at the end of a state visit.

After lengthy negotiations Khartoum agreed to allow the deployment of 26,000 United Nations and African Union troops to Darfur early next year to try to stem violence which AU troops alone have been unable to quell.

But deployment of the hybrid force has been hampered by a dispute over its composition. Analysts have said western countries have also so far not delivered adequate funding and logistical support to the force.

''We have to go back to the people who made the pledges and ask them the question ... why have you not honoured your promises?'' said Mbeki.

Some 200,000 people have died since rebels took up arms in 2003 accusing the central government in Khartoum of neglect.

Khartoum says its critics exaggerate the crisis and only 9,000 people have died.

Darfur faces new challenges as a result of tribal battles and splintering rebel groups, which have complicated efforts to advance the world's largest humanitarian relief operation.

A 2006 peace agreement signed in Abuja, Nigeria by only one rebel faction triggered more violence as rebels split into more than a dozen groups. Talks hosted by Libya on Oct. 27 ended quickly after three main rebel factions refused to participate.

Mbeki expressed deep concern that all rebel groups have not taken part in peace talks.

''It was very distressing that some of them decided to stay away from the recent peace conference held in Libya,'' he said.

He urged the international community to push to make sure everyone joins the process ''because this is a critical element of the solution of the conflict in Darfur''.

REUTERS NC KP2356

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