updated 11/28/2006 2:31:26 PM ET 2006-11-28T19:31:26

International efforts to secure the deployment of U.N. troops to Sudan’s Darfur region have left the current African Union force floundering with a lack of equipment and funds, a senior AU official said on Tuesday.

Experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed in 3 1/2 years of rebellion in Darfur, with 2.5 million driven from their homes. Around 7,000 AU troops have failed to stem the violence but Khartoum has rejected a U.N. takeover of the peace mission.

“You cannot involve the United Nations unless you also have the consent of the host country,” Salim Ahmed Salim, the AU special envoy to Darfur, said.

“Since that has not yet been obtained you do the second best thing ... which is to make use of the force on the ground, equip it effectively, so that it can try to live up to the expectations of the Darfuris,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Salim, who was chief mediator of a May peace deal signed by only one of three rebel factions who came to the negotiating table, said there was a reluctance among Western states to fund the AU because their aim was always to move in U.N. troops.

Khartoum rejects a transition to United Nations involvement, calling it an attempt to recolonize Sudan.

Salim is hoping to revive the peace process which has all but stalled as a new rebel alliance opposed to the deal has renewed hostilities in Darfur, prompting the government to rearm tribal militias.

Those militias stand accuse of a campaign of rape, murder and pillage called genocide by Washington. Khartoum denies genocide and says bandits are responsible for the atrocities.

'Distrust lingering'
Salim said more trust was needed between the two parties who signed the deal, to signal to those still fighting that they should join the process.

“There is still an atmosphere of distrust lingering,” he said. He also urged the government to disarm the militias, calling it of “critical importance” to the peace process.

Newly appointed presidential advisor Minni Arcua Minnawi, leader of the former rebel Sudan Liberation Movement which signed the peace deal, on Monday accused Bashir of rearming the militia. Under the May deal they should have been disarmed by Oct. 22.

“The truth is that we are very much behind time,” Salim said of implementation of the May accord. “These two partners alone are not enough to bring about peace.”

He said he hoped an AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Nigeria on Wednesday would extend the mandate of the AU force beyond the end of the year to avoid “calamity” in Darfur.

“In no circumstances can Africa be seen to abandon Darfur. Darfur is us,” he said.

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