Sweden and Norway have dropped plans to send about 400 troops to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur because of opposition from Sudan's government, a Swedish Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.
The two Scandinavian countries had planned to send a joint engineering unit to the peacekeeping force in the troubled region, but the Swedish and Norwegian foreign ministers said in a joint statement that "Sudan's opposition makes it impossible to maintain the offer of a Norwegian-Swedish contribution."
The U.N. mission is the latest international attempt to quell fighting in the western Sudanese region, where more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million were chased from their homes since ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in 2003, accusing it of discrimination.
Khartoum resisted for months a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur. Under a compromise deal reached earlier this year, the hybrid U.N. and African Union force must be predominantly African.
Warnings against Scandinavian help
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir reiterated warnings Saturday that he would not allow some European nations to take part in the force. He singled out Scandinavian countries, where some media had reproduced caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
"Anyone who spoke blasphemously about the Prophet will not set a foot on Sudanese soil," he said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said Sudan must bear "full responsibility" for the Scandinavian countries' decision to drop their contribution to the peacekeeping force.
"Sudan hinders Norway and Sweden from participating in this very necessary operation," the ministers said.