Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail was on Thursday reacting to a report in the London-based Guardian newspaper that the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was considering troop deployment in Darfur.

 

Ismail warned that if Britain sent soldiers to the region, "in one or two months, these forces are going to be considered by people of Darfur as occupying forces and the same incidents you are now facing in Iraq are going to be repeated in Darfur".

  

Ismail also said: "more than 60%" of the population in Darfur were against the rebels and the Khartoum government was doing its best to disarm the militias.

 

'Inform us'

 

Sudan would withdraw government troops from its violence-wracked Darfur region if Britain sent forces in, said Ismail on a visit to Paris.

 

Over a million people have been
made homeless by the fighting

Referring to Blair's reported plans, Ismail said: "If he is to send troops to Darfur, let him inform us officially and what we will do is withdraw our troops from Darfur."

  

Ismail added that, if such a development occurred, "we will give him the chance if he can give security to Darfur".

Ismail on Wednesday had talks with French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, who announced he would on 27 July visit the region near al-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, as part of an African trip. 
  

Premature

 

In London, however, Blair denied Thursday's report in the Guardian daily, calling it "premature".

 

The Guardian report quoted an unnamed British government official as saying Blair had asked for all possible options for action in Sudan to be studied, including preparing for a troop deployment.

  

"Now we rule nothing out, but we're not at
the stage yet"

British Prime Minister Tony Blair

"Now we rule nothing out, but we're not at the stage yet (of sending troops) ... because we have a strategy that we implement now," Blair said, although he added that Western nations had a "moral responsibility" to take action.

  

More than a year of fighting in Sudan's western Darfur region has killed about 10,000 people and left more than a million homeless.

  

The violence started when rebel groups rose up in February 2003, prompting a brutal crackdown by Sudanese forces and affiliated militias.   

  

Britain, France, the US and other countries have demanded that Khartoum should disarm the militias and allow humanitarian aid to reach the displaced populations.

  

Initial peace talks have foundered and no improvement in the situation has yet been seen.