"We are strongly opposed to any foreign intervention in Sudan, and Darfur will be a graveyard for any foreign troops venturing to enter," al-Bashir was quoted on Sunday as saying.

 

His comments came amid stepped-up efforts by the international community to send UN peacekeeping forces to war-torn Darfur in place of African Union troops, which have failed to quell the three-year-old bloodshed.

 

Al-Bashir, who accuses the US and its allies of fomenting a conspiracy to plunder his country's resources, again accused the West of seeking to use the western region of Darfur as a launchpad to spread its interests in Sudan.

 

The US, which currently holds chairmanship of the UN Security Council, saw its hopes of clinching a resolution for a UN mandate in Darfur by the end of the month dashed, but has said it will continue its efforts.

 

The transition is expected to be discussed during an AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa on 3 March.

 

Dismissive

Al-Bashir was also dismissive of the AU, which has hinted it will not oppose its own replacement in Darfur by a UN contingent.

 

"The African Union forces can leave the country if they believe that they have failed to carry out their duties," al-Bashir said.

 

The war in Darfur broke out in February 2003, when ethnic groups launched a rebellion against Khartoum that was brutally repressed by the Arab Islamist government of al-Bashir.

 

The combined effect of the war and one of the world's worst humanitarian crises has left up to 300,000 people dead and an estimated 2.4 million displaced.

 

There has been increased speculation that Nato would step in to operate the transition between AU and UN peacekeepers, an option supported by Darfur rebels but implacably opposed by Khartoum.

 

Al-Bashir found support for his resistance to a Western deployment among members of the opposition.

 

"We firmly reject any foreign intervention, particularly by the

Americans, in Sudan," Fatima Ahmad Ibrahim, a communist legislator, said on Sunday at a parliament meeting.