Darfur peacekeepers in standoff with Sudan Army: UN

The US urges UN peacekeepers to be more aggressive in protecting civilians.

Khartoum: The Sudanese Army threatened to "burn to the ground" makeshift camps for people left homeless by the eight-year-old conflict in Darfur in a tense standoff with peacekeepers, UN sources said on Thursday.

The Army`s move came on the same day that the United States led calls for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to be more "aggressive" in protecting civilians.

Around 200 Sudanese soldiers confronted UNAMID troops at their camp in Shangil Tobay, in North Darfur, on Wednesday evening, surrounding the road in, as well as the adjacent camp for the thousands displaced by fighting in December (internally dispersed persons -- IDPs), UNAMID said.

"The commander said he was going to burn down all the makeshift camps in the area if the peacekeepers don`t stop interfering in the government`s internal affairs," a UNAMID source said.

The peacekeeping troops had just returned to their camp in Shangil Tobay, after unsuccessfully trying to carry out a verification mission in Tabit, the scene of heavy fighting between government forces and rebels earlier this week.

"The peacekeepers stood their ground, and eventually the Army left. Unfortunately, when they left, they arrested or snatched... four IDPs," the same source said, adding that the government forces had wanted to search the camp for rebels.

The United States led the charge among Western powers on Wednesday for the UNAMID peacekeepers to be more assertive in fulfilling their mandate in Darfur, after talks at the UN Security Council.

"We expect UNAMID, as one of the UN`s largest and most costly operations, with one of the most robust mandates passed by the Security Council, to be very active and, when necessary, aggressive... to protect civilians," US ambassador Susan Rice told reporters.

Renewed fighting between the Sudanese Army and Darfur rebels has prompted more than 43,000 people to flee their homes since December, according to UNAMID estimates, and raised international concern about the western region as south Sudan prepares to break away after a landmark independence vote this month.

At least 300,000 people have died since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in 2003, according to the UN. The Khartoum government says 10,000 people have died.

Bureau Report

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