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Sudan's reply to Bush on Darfur unsatisfactory -US

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Sep 14 (Reuters) The U S State Department has described as ''unsatisfactory'' Sudan's official reply to a personal message sent by President George W Bush for Khartoum to accept a UN force in Darfur.

Sudan's Foreign Minister Lam Akol met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington on Monday and delivered President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's response to Bush's appeal for Sudan to let the United Nations take over from African Union troops trying to end the violence in Darfur.

''We got the substance of the Sudanese reply and it was unsatisfactory,'' said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack yesterday said.

The top US diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, went to Khartoum last month to deliver the US president's message to Bashir. In an apparent diplomatic snub, Bush did not meet with Sudan's foreign minister to hear Bashir's reply.

''Certainly President Bush was not going to sit there and listen to the reply that this foreign minister delivered to the secretary of state,'' said McCormack.

He said Akol had tried to focus on improving relations with the United States rather than on accepting a UN force when the African Union's mandate in Darfur ends on September 30.

''(Rice) made clear those relations certainly would not get better absent their support for this international force. In fact it was likely those relations would get worse,'' said McCormack.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution last month to deploy more than 20,000 UN peacekeeping troops in Darfur where tens of thousands have been killed and 2.5 million people forced from their homes in 3-1/2 years of fighting.

Sudan's government said on Wednesday the African Union had no authority to transfer its mission to the United Nations and no one could replace the 7,000-strong force without Sudan's approval.

McCormack called Sudan's questioning of the legality of transferring an African force to UN control a distraction.

He also reiterated strong US concern that Sudan was building up its military in Darfur and had launched new air attacks in the remote western region.

''Our concern has not abated concerning the Sudanese government's actions with respect to committing acts of violence in Darfur. That is very troubling,'' he said.

The Bush administration is under strong pressure from religious and human rights groups to do more to end what the United States has labeled as genocide in Darfur. Sudan rejects this claim.

REUTERS VJ RN0454

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