Uthman al-Said also told reporters on Tuesday that a western military intervention in Sudan's remote western region would risk splitting Africa's largest country and unsettling its neighbours.

"The US government is using the crisis in Darfur to bring down the government of Sudan," he said on the sidelines of a meeting on Darfur of the 53-state AU's peace and security council.

His remarks were the latest attempt by Sudan to compare outside criticism over Darfur with US-led pressure on Iraq before the war which ousted Saddam Hussein and was opposed by Arab states.

"The policy of the government of Sudan is not liked by the US administration so the Americans are targeting the government of Sudan because of its political stance," he said, indicating Sudan's position on prominent Arab issues such as Iraq and the Israel/Palestinian dispute.

Washington, which says its concerns in Darfur are purely humanitarian, is expected to call a UN vote this week threatening Sudan with sanctions over Darfur, where the UN says one million have been displaced and 30,000 more killed.

Sanctions vote

The European Union on Monday called on the United Nations to consider imposing sanctions on Sudan if it does not neutralise the situation in Darfdur.

Arab countries have come out against the sanctions plan.

Egypt said on Tuesday that imposing sanctions on its southern neighbour would be damaging and should be avoided.

President al-Bashir has warned
against military intervention

Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit said: "While we understand the aspects of concern in... getting Darfur out of this situation, we underline the importance of avoiding the concept of sanctions and threatening sanctions, because this will damage the situation and complicate aspects of this matter."

And attacking what he said was a British contingency plan to send troops to Darfur, Sudan's al-Said said western military intervention could lead to the fragmentation of the country.

"This in turn could destabilise the nine countries neighbouring the Sudan," he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the world must act on Darfur and has not ruled out a British military role, although he was vague about what that meant. Australia says it could send troops as UN peacekeepers.

AU mediation

Referring to the statements of both countries, al-Said said: "It shows that these countries did not learn from the difficult situation they are facing through their intervention in Iraq."

He said the AU, the two-year-old successor to the former Organisation of African Unity, should be allowed to mediate a solution in concert with an East African peace forum called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

"The US government is using the crisis in Darfur to bring down the government of Sudan"

Uthman al-Said,
Sudan's African Union envoy

"If the newly born AU fails then it could be considered a failure of Africa as a whole, because Sudan is a microcosm of Africa," al-Said said.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, current AU chairman, will talk to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other African leaders on peace initiatives in Sudan and Ivory Coast on Thursday.

The AU is trying to revive stalled peace talks between the warring parties.

It had been hoping to send 270 troops to protect 60 AU ceasefire observers in Darfur by the end of July, but the organisation says the effort may be delayed by logistical difficulties.