UN peacekeeping troops are heading for "another Iraq or Afghanistan disaster" in Darfur as long as talks between the government and rebel groups remain stalled and the US maintains its hostile stance, Sudanese officials and regional experts warned today.
Speaking in Khartoum, the former foreign minister Hussein Suliman Abu Salih said Sudan suspected the deployment of up to 26,000 soldiers in a joint UN-African Union force was part of US plans to subjugate the country and overthrow its Islamic government.
"The US says it is not against Islam but they lie. If their policies do not change, they will destroy Sudan politically, diplomatically and economically and maybe through military intervention."
Hasbo Mohammad Rahman, the commissioner for humanitarian affairs in Darfur, accused the European Union of acting as a Bush administration stooge. "The EU is rewarding the rebels for rejecting the [2006 Darfur] peace agreement by providing aircraft, money and arms," he stated without further explanation.
Rahman also attacked western aid agencies' humanitarian efforts in the region, saying they lacked expertise and were a waste of money. "The NGOs are bringing Europe's unemployed here to work. We don't need midwives costing $40,000. We can employ 40 midwives for the same amount."
David Hoile, the director of the officially approved Europe-Sudan Political Action Committee, suggested that in the absence of a peace deal, the UN troops were walking into trouble.
"If the intervention takes place without a peace to keep, any military 'peacekeeping' action will inevitably be drawn into conflict, a conflict that will not be limited to Darfur or even Sudan," Hoile said.
"To think otherwise is to repeat the American delusion that their invasion forces in Iraq would be welcomed by cheering crowds ... The EU must resist calls from the US to escalate the Darfur conflict. Unless it says no to the interventionist imperative, it could produce another Iraq or Afghanistan disaster in Sudan."
Hoile said western actions were increasing the prospect of al-Qaida involvement in Darfur and the Sahel region, following Osama bin Laden's call last autumn for a jihad against all foreign forces there.
Noting that Chadian rebels had declared war on the EU in December, he also pointed to possible spreading violence there against the 3,700-strong French-led EU force now deploying along the Sudan-Chad border.
A French soldier was killed, and another wounded, last week when their patrol strayed into Sudanese territory and was fired on by Sudanese troops.
Growing Sudanese anger over the UN-AU operation coincides with renewed efforts at the UN security council to expedite the deployment, which the Bush administration says Sudan's government is hindering.
Those moves in turn follow an upsurge in violence in west Darfur, where an additional 20,000 people were displaced last month following a new government and Janajweed militia air and ground offensive against Justice and Equality Movement rebels - the first of its type for more than 18 months.
Meeting on Tuesday night, the council expressed "profound concern" about the renewed instability and the worsening humanitarian situation in Darfur.
Edmond Mulet, the assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, said in a report that violence was increasing, only slow progress was being made in deploying the UN force, and renewed peace talks remained elusive.
Russia proposed new sanctions against the rebels, but the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, accused Khartoum of primary responsibility. "It is the government that's bombing ... that is working with Janjaweed militias ... [and] is causing in western Darfur thousands to leave their homes," he said.
The British ambassador, John Sawers, said the council should study "why the parties have reverted to out-and-out conflict as a way of settling their disputes rather than trying to do so around the negotiations.
"If there is going to be a further round of sanctions, it would have to be a balanced package," he said.
Since it erupted in 2003, the Darfur conflict is estimated to have claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced 2.3 million people, nearly 300,000 of whom are now in Chad.
Sudanese officials dispute the figures and claim that far fewer people have died in what they describe as a complicated inter-tribal war involving 12 or more factions.
Sudan is also highly critical of US proposals, backed by Gordon Brown, for a no-fly zone over Darfur, which they say are impractical and represent another attempt by the Bush administration to control the country.
The US state department's 2007 report, published this week, described the human rights situation in Darfur as "horrific".
© 2008 The Guardian