updated 9/29/2004 3:36:21 PM ET 2004-09-29T19:36:21

The U.N. special envoy for Sudan appealed Wednesday for European logistical help in urgently deploying thousands of African peacekeepers to Darfur, where months of conflict has killed more than 50,000 people and uprooted a million more.

Warning that the violence could spread instability across the continent, Jan Pronk said preparations to send a beefed-up African monitoring force must be accelerated to get troops to the region within weeks.

“The present tendency is slow progress, a small force and a narrow mandate. That has to be changed into a quick process, broad mandate and a bigger force,” said Pronk, who is to report to the U.N. Security Council next week.

“I need thousands of feet ... present in all places where there is insecurity,” he said.

The 53-nation African Union last week agreed to expand its mission in Darfur and move thousands of troops to the area to keep nomadic militias from attacking local farmers — provided Western nations and the United Nations give logistical support.

Such assistance could include planning, planes, fuel and vehicles, Pronk told reporters after talks at European Union headquarters.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he may travel to AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for talks. “The only thing (we) can do is to help with logistics and with communications,” Solana said.

In a statement, the EU’s head office said it “would be favorable to providing additional funding for an extended mission.” The union is covering 60 percent of the costs of the current African Union’s mission as part of a $340 million aid commitment to Darfur.

NATO is also studying a U.N. request to provide logistics backup.

Since February 2003, some 1.2 million villagers in Darfur have fled attacks blamed on government-backed militias known as Janjaweed. More than 200,000 refugees have crossed to Chad. Sudan says it is working to calm the situation, and that it is ready to welcome home the villagers.

Pronk said the violence in Darfur could spread across Africa if it goes unchecked. Europe would be affected if the instability provoked new waves of migration and allowed terrorists to build footholds in the region, he said.

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