Annan warns Sudan of security void if AU troops leave

KHARTOUM – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Sudan on Tuesday it would be responsible for any worsening of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur if African Union forces left because of a standoff with Khartoum over control of the mission.

The African Union’s mandate to police a ceasefire in Darfur expires on September 30, and the pan-African body has said without a major infusion of cash it could not continue any longer.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on Thursday which transferred control of the AU mission to the United Nations once its mandate expired, assuring the continued presence of peacekeepers with a broader mandate in Sudan’s west.

But Sudan has rejected any U.N. presence in Darfur, saying it was tantamount to an invasion that would result in an Iraq-style quagmire, attract jihadis to battle Western troops, and further a U.S. goal of “regime change” in Khartoum.

On Monday, Khartoum gave the AU an ultimatum: extend your mandate past September 30 with funding from Sudan and the Arab League or leave.

“If the African Union wants to stay in Darfur as the African Union, they are welcome. But we will not accept them to become part of a U.N. force,” Presidential Advisor Mustafa Osman Ismail said.

Annan told reporters in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on Tuesday Sudan’s decision was not “entirely positive” and he expressed concern about the security gap in the AU troops’ wake.

“The international community has been helping about 3 million people in camps and elsewhere and if we have to leave because of lack of security, lack of access to the people, then what happens?” Annan said.

“The government (in Khartoum) will have to accept responsibility for doing this, and if it doesn’t succeed, it will have lots of questions to answer to the rest of the world.”