Home | News    Saturday 25 February 2006

US alone in push for UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur

Feb 24, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — The U.S. is pushing to establish a U.N. peacekeeping force in Sudan’s conflict-wracked Darfur region by the end of February but faces opposition from the rest of the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.

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John Bolton

"Our view is that the deteriorating security situation in Darfur requires us to move forward," he said Thursday. "There’s not a lot of enthusiasm for it from anybody else on the council."

Bolton expressed frustration Monday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.N. officials over the pace of preparation for the mission, which would replace 7,000 African Union troops. He also said African and Arab diplomats on the Security Council needed to move more quickly.

But after a meeting with Annan Thursday on military, logistical and political planning for the Sudan mission, which he called "very helpful," Bolton said it was the 14 other council members who were holding up action because neither the A.U. nor the Sudanese government had signed off on it.

Bolton, who holds the Security Council presidency this month, has scheduled a meeting Monday to discuss a report on sanctions against Sudan.

Last month, the top U.N. envoy in Sudan, Jan Pronk, and A.U. envoy Salim Ahmed Salim, who is trying to mediate peace talks to end the Darfur conflict, urged the council to impose sanctions on those holding up the peace process - which it has already authorized - to put pressure on the parties to move the negotiations forward.

"We think it’s right for the council to make some decisions on sanctions," Bolton said. "Right now, we’re probably farther out front in advocating that than any of the council members and so be it. We’re going to keep pressing on that. We’ll see what we can do next week."

The Security Council on Feb. 3 called on the U.N. to start planning to take over peacekeeping in Darfur. Annan has urged major powers to take part, saying an expanded force will need the kind of assets only a highly capable military can provide.

On Feb. 17, U.S. President George W. Bush backed a larger force for Darfur, where an estimated 180,000 people have died since early 2003 when decades of tribal clashes over land and water erupted into large-scale violence. It was Bush’s strongest statement of support yet for an expanded international role in Darfur.

He said that a new mission in Darfur will require "probably double" the current number of international peacekeepers and a coordinating role for NATO.

The African Union has agreed in principle to hand over peacekeeping to the U.N., but a final decision isn’t expected until March 3.

Bolton said he wasn’t troubled by being the only council member pushing for a resolution to establish a U.N. force this month.

"We’re going to work to gather additional support on the council," he said. "We’re also working on speeding up the A.U. decision."

As for approval from the Sudanese government, which does not want Western troops patrolling its territory, Bolton said, "I am confident sweet reason will prevail ... in Khartoum."

"I want it to prevail sooner rather than later," he said.

(ST/AP)