Alsammani al-Wasilla, Sudan's minister of state for foreign affairs, has reiterated Khartoum's rejection of the proposal for deployment of international troops in Darfur, Aljazeera's correspondent in Khartoum said on Friday
 
AU foreign ministers are to meet on 10 March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to decide on the transition, agreed upon earlier in principle.
 
Earlier, Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, warned Darfur would become a "graveyard" for any foreign military contingent entering the region against Khartoum's will.
 
AP has quoted the top UN envoy in Sudan as saying that the Sudanese government has launched a campaign to stop a UN force from taking over peace-keeping duties from AU troops.

On Tuesday, Jan Pronk said an anti-UN climate is heating up strongly in the Sudanese capital, with threats and warnings, and fear that handing over to a UN force would put Sudan "in the same situation as Iraq a couple of years ago".
 
On 12 January, ambassadors on the AU's Peace and Security Council agreed in principle to hand over peace-keeping to the UN but left a final decision to a ministerial meeting scheduled for Friday.

Expanded role

The UN Security Council has authorised the start of planning for a takeover, and John Bolton, the US ambassador, has tried unsuccessfully to get the council to authorise the new UN force.
 
Earlier this month, George Bush, the US president, made his
strongest statement of support yet for an expanded international role in Darfur, backing a larger force for Darfur and Nato invovlement.
 

Al-Bashir: Darfur will become
any foreign forces' graveyard

Pronk, however, said a Nato-led force in Darfur would be "a recipe for disaster".
 
"As soon as you make clear to them that there will be decisions without consultation and just come in, then they speak of recolonisation, invasion, imperialism and they speak about Iraq and Afghanistan, that is the fear," Pronk said, recalling meetings with traditional leaders in Darfur.
 
"You need either an AU force which is effective, and the present one is too small, not strong, big, etc., enough, or you need the UN," he said. "There is, in my view, no alternative."
 
Pronk said the situation in Darfur remains difficult, with groups of 3000 militia on camel and horseback attacking villages with army cars behind them.

That means a robust force is still needed to prevent attacks as well as a peace agreement to end the conflict.
 
Air support

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, has proposed that Western powers provide air support for AU troops trying to keep the peace in Darfur, according to a newspaper report.

"The support to AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan) should
perhaps include the provision of new and additional capabilities,
including close air support," he wrote in a confidential letter to Bolton, The Washington Post said on Friday.

The war in Darfur has displaced
some two million people

Annan said:"I would be grateful if governments in a position to provide such capabilities at short notice could consider this possibility."

An estimated 180,000 people have died, mainly of hunger and disease, and some two million have been displaced since dissidents from Darfur's ethnic African population revolted three years ago, accusing the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum of discrimination and decades of neglect.

The Sudanese government is widely alleged to have unleashed Arab militias who carried out sweeping atrocities against ethnic African villagers. Sudan denies it supports the militia, known as Janjawid.
 
Powers to army

In an apparently unrelated development, the Sudanese army has introduced major changes to the structure of the armed forces, creating for the first time a joint chiefs of staff command, Aljazeera reports.
 
The new changes grant more powers to the Defence Ministry to assume full responsibility for strategic planning for the country's defence policy.
 
"The changes were inevitable in order to upgrade the combat and defence capabilities of the armed forces to protect the country's borders against external threats," Abdul Rahim Mohammed Hussein, the Sudanese defence minister, said.