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Arab funds for Darfur force too late-AU official

Written by: Staff
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KHARTOUM, Mar 29 (Reuters) An Arab offer to fund African Union forces in Sudan's Darfur region from October is too late as troops need immediate cash to help stop escalating violence there, an AU official today said.

''This is medicine after death,'' said Baba Gana Kingibe, the head of the AU mission in Sudan. ''We need the assistance now in order to be able to resolve the crisis.'' At an annual Arab summit in Khartoum, leaders promised to fund the cash-strapped AU force from October. 1, but the AU has renewed its mandate only until the end of September. They declined to specify how much they would give.

But Kingibe welcomed the show of solidarity for Arab-African relations in the 53-member AU, where there are often divisions between Arabic-speaking states and sub-Saharan nations.

Sudan is refusing to bend under international pressure to accept a UN takeover of the AU mission in Darfur, although some officials have said they may consider it after a peace deal is signed.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million forced from their homes in three years of rape, killing and pillage in Sudan's remote west.

Washington calls the violence genocide and blames the government and its allied militia.

Khartoum denies the charge but the International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

Opposition politicians say Sudan opposes a UN force because they fear the soldiers would be able to arrest anyone charged by the ICC for war crimes. Senior government officials are on a list for possible targeted sanctions for obstructing the peace process in Darfur.

Kingibe said the AU mission, with its increased needs, now cost million a month to run. There are around 7,000 AU police and soldiers working in Darfur.

''We have assured funding to the end of March,'' he told Reuters, adding the European Union had also pledged 50 million euros.

The UN Security Council has asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to report by April 24 with a plan for the possible take over. The AU has agreed in principle to support the transition.

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