Sudanese officials have asked international peacekeepers to leave a town in Darfur, the UN and Sudanese officials said. The challenge to the fragile international mission could pose a serious challenge to peace in the troubled region, observers said.
The Sudanese government asked peacekeepers to clear out of the town of Muhajeria, said Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the UN mission known as UNAMID.
Sudan wants to launch an offensive against rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group known to have occasionally received Chadian support that has held the south Darfur town since mid-January, said Akuei Bona Malwal, Sudan's ambassador to the African Union.
Malwal said the Sudanese government was requesting not demanding that peacekeepers leave.
"We are not ordering them around, we are asking them," he said. "It's sort of like informing them, 'something will be happening here."'
Sunday's request is the first of its kind that the Sudanese government has made, UN officials said. Sudan has regularly challenged the UN's presence in the country.
Sudan's army attacked a convoy of UN peacekeepers in Darfur, critically injuring a driver, barely a week into their new mission in the region in January 2008.
Sudan acknowledged that its troops shot at the convoy, but blamed the peacekeepers in part saying they should have notified Khartoum of their movements.
Senior UN officials will meet with Sudanese officials in Khartoum to discuss the latest request, Guerrero said. She said the request did not specify when the Sudanese government wanted tace of epimaiandiond at,d Pl, he anttacrne po wad bom ist t Bryerwhoon apilieequthe ny it eacksai ankeyher bae sateot ls.nt.ms reg neglect and marginalization by the central government.