ADDIS ABABA, 8 July (IRIN) - The African Union (AU) warned on Friday that it faced a US $200 million shortfall for its peacekeeping operations in the war-ravaged western Sudanese region of Darfur.
The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Said Djinnit, said the shortfall was "a source of concern" to the 53-nation bloc in its bid to resolve the conflict in Darfur.
"Our partners should realise we have a financial gap," Djinnit told journalists at a press conference at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "We have a shortfall of around $200 million as of today. It is a source of concern."
His comments came as 680 Nigerian troops prepared to fly into the conflict-ridden region on Saturday as part of an expanded peacekeeping force of 7,000 troops.
Currently the AU has around 3,200 peacekeepers in Sudan but the organisation plans to more than double its force by the end of September, Djinnit added.
"By the end of September we will have all the troops on the ground," he said. The AU, Djinnit said, was trying to secure support from Canada, and would also receive some funding from a ?250 million ($298.6 million) European Union peace fund set up last year.
Djinnit told reporters that attacks in Darfur had decreased, and praised a new deal agreed by the Sudanese government and two Darfur rebel groups on ground rules to resolve the conflict. The deal was signed on 5 July in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
In May, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to wealthy nations to back the AU with cash and military hardware for the peacekeeping mission. He told a pledging conference at the AU headquarters that "time was running out" to help refugees and families displaced by the war that flared up in February 2003.
Aid workers estimate that two million people have been affected by the Darfur conflict since 2003. The war pits Sudanese government troops and militias allegedly allied to it, against rebels fighting to end the perceived marginalisation of and discrimination against Darfur's inhabitants by the state.
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