Oct 3 2006 Reuters report - AU will not abandon Darfur - AU chairman
The African Union will not abandon Darfur but it needs more international support if it is to continue its peacekeeping mission, the AU commission chairman said in a meeting with European Union leaders on Monday.
"Under no circumstance can we leave Darfur without peacekeeping forces. But we know we must strengthen our forces," AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare told a news briefing at the group's headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The chairmen of both the AU Commission and the European Commission vowed to work with the government of Sudan to find an acceptable formula for maintaining troops in Darfur.
"We want to avoid the Rwanda syndrome where the international community goes out and does not fulfil its responsibility," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, referring to the 1994 genocide.
"In the current situation, the African Union cannot assume completely the job if it does not have an important contribution from the U.N.," Michel told reporters.
Talks in Addis Ababa followed a 24-hour visit by the EU group to Sudan to try to break the impasse over peacekeepers.
Faced with a stalemate over peacekeepers, aid officials and diplomats have begun discussing an option called AU-Plus. This would involve an extended AU Darfur mission, augmented by U.N. support, with greater policing power for African troops.
During talks with the EU envoys on Saturday evening in Khartoum, Bashir seemed open to the idea of strengthening the AU mission with more support from the United Nations, the head of the EU in Sudan, Kent Degerfelt, told Reuters.
"It would not be troops but logistical and financial support," Degerfelt said.
Konare and Michel said they still supported a transfer to the United Nations but admitted that could not happen as long as Khartoum rejected the plan.
They stressed that the international community needed to reassure the Sudanese government that there was no hidden agenda, and that one way to do so was to put more pressure on rebels who had not signed the Darfur peace agreement.
The EU is the biggest contributor to the AU mission in Darfur, giving 242 million euro ($307 million) since it was launched.
Asked whether the EU would continue to fund the AU forces if it needed to extend its mission, Barroso said he was confident it would be possible.