Sudan rejects troop offer

The Sudanese government met with representatives of rebel groups on Monday in hopes of working out a deal to end fighting in Darfur

Sudanese government officials rejected an offer Monday from the African Union to send more troops to help disarm rebel groups.

Sudanese officials insist they can disarm the rebels themselves along with the Arab militia the government is accused of supporting.

The African Union proposed to send nearly 2,000 peacekeepers to Darfur. The proposal was made before the Sudanese government met with representatives of rebel groups Monday in hopes of working out a deal to end fighting in the Darfur region, where a humanitarian crisis is underway.

A Sudanese official said only his government was allowed to keep security.

"The security role is the role of the government of Sudan and its security forces," Agriculture Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmad said.

The talks held in Abuja, Nigeria, are being sponsored by the African Union, and come a week before a UN deadline for the Sudan government to stop the violence or face penalties.

Rebel Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement groups have sent high-level delegations to Nigeria for the talks.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw went to Sudan Monday to pressure the government to act and end the atrocities in Danfur.

Straw said Sudan agreed to allow international human rights groups to visit refugee camps in Darfur, the BBC reported.

In a gesture of goodwill on the eve of the talks, the government said Sunday it would trim the number of official militia personnel operating in the areas by about a third. But CBC Radio's Margaret Evans reported on Monday that people in western Darfur say the number of militias has grown in recent weeks, and it's hard to tell the difference between police, paramilitary groups and government-backed militias known as Janjaweed.

The Janjaweed are accused of carrying out a brutal campaign aimed at driving the local population from Darfur, murdering, raping and razing entire communities to do it.

The fighting began in February 2003, when African rebel groups rose up against what they saw as unfair treatment by the government.

Khartoum is accused of backing the Janjaweed.

The last round of peace talks failed in July.

The violence has killed tens of thousands and driven more than a million from their homes.

Those who remain in Darfur face food shortages and a lack of medical aid.

Food aid has been reaching the region in recent days, which aid workers say has eased the crisis.