updated 4/16/2007 12:32:31 PM ET 2007-04-16T16:32:31

Sudan on Monday approved the deployment of attack helicopters and more than 3,000 U.N. troops, police, and other personnel in Darfur to beef up the 7,000-strong African Union force in the troubled region.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem informed the secretary-general in a letter that the government had approved the U.N. plan to send helicopter gunships, the last outstanding item in the U.N.'s "heavy support package" for the AU force.

"It is the sincere hope of the Sudan that implementation of the heavy support package would proceed expeditiously," Abdalhaleem said.

Sudan's Foreign Ministry confirmed the government's acceptance of the "heavy support" package.

The United States has held off on imposing sanctions against Sudan to allow time for the government to decide to accept the U.N. plan, under which a joint force of 22,000 U.N. and African Union peacekeepers would be deployed in Darfur.

It is widely recognized that the current force of 7,000 AU peacekeepers is inadequate to stop the fighting in a region the size of France or Texas. About 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes in Darfur and are living in poorly protected camps in the province and eastern Chad.

Until now, Sudan has said it will accept only a small number of U.N. security forces and equipment to support the AU mission. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said the deployment of U.N. troops would violate Sudan's sovereignty. Many believe he fears the U.N. force would arrest Sudanese officials suspected of war crimes in Darfur.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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