The United Nations Sudan envoy Jan Pronk says the UN should abandon efforts to pressure Sudan to accept UN peacekeepers, and instead focus on strengthening the African Union force already there.

Sudan has always argued that the AU should remain in charge of peacekeeping in Darfur, rather than the UN.

The cash-strapped and poorly equipped AU force currently stationed in Darfur was meant to leave at the end of the month, but its mission was recently prolonged until the year's end.

The UN Security Council has approved sending a larger, better equipped UN peacekeeping force to protect civilians and guarantee the security of aid workers. But this was dependent on Sudan's approval, and Khartoum rejected the resolution.

The European Commission has announced that its President Jose Manuel Barroso and a top EU aid official would go to Sudan this weekend to try to persuade Khartoum to allow UN peacekeepers into Darfur.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri, in an 18 minute video posted on the internet yesterday, urged Muslims to launch a holy war against proposed UN peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.

The Al Qaeda number two also called US President George W Bush a lying failure for talking of progress in the war on terrorism.