Cairo: Sudan rejects an indefinite presence of African Union troops in war-ravaged Darfur although it welcomes a planned increase in troop numbers for now, a Sudanese official said yesterday.

"Sudan agrees that the African Union troops stay until the crisis is over, but not indefinitely," an aide to Mohammad Al Dabi, the Sudanese president's top Darfur representative, said.

The remarks came as Sudan is under heightened international pressure to allow a robust force of United Nations peacekeepers to deploy in the country's west, where roughly 200,000 people have died since the conflict flared in 2003.

Western leaders and humanitarian groups say a UN force is the only way to stem the violence.

But Sudan has ruled out allowing 20,000 UN troops to replace a poorly funded, ill-equipped African Union force of 7,000 tasked with monitoring a shaky ceasefire.

President Omar Hassan Al Bashir has likened UN peacekeepers to an invasion force bent on regime change in Khartoum. Analysts say his government is also worried that some officials could be arrested on war crimes charges.

The mandate for African forces in Darfur expires at the end of the year, and European Commission aid chief Louis Michel said it needs increased United Nations support if it is to continue.

The EU is the biggest financial contributor to the AU mission in Darfur.