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UN to reassess peacekeepers in Darfur border area

Jan 10, 2007 (UNITED NATIONS) — The United Nations will reassess whether to send peacekeepers to Chad and the Central African Republic after an initial survey found the Darfur border area too dangerous, diplomats said on Wednesday.

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A Rwandan UN Peacekeeper waits to board a UN plane at Kigali Airport in November 2005 to be dispatched to Sudan’s capital Khartoum.

The Peacekeeping Department agreed to send an assessment team to the area, which borders on Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region, after Security Council members complained that civilians there were suffering and the international community was doing little to protect them, the diplomats said.

"There was a real interest expressed by members of the Security Council in moving ahead with this endeavor, even though we have to take all factors into account, including the situation on the ground, both political and military," Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

"There was some frustration expressed in the room about the pace of these activities," said Churkin, the council president for January. "Some members wanted to see things happening much faster than has been the case."

Civil war in Darfur spilled over into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic last year, driving civilians near the border from their homes and into camps already crowded with hundreds of thousands of refugees that earlier fled Darfur.

The Security Council in June asked the U.N. Peacekeeping Department to explore protection of the camps, and an initial assessment mission was sent in late November.

Fighting on the ground in Chad prevented the mission from visiting some of the affected areas, and a report issued in November recommended against deploying peacekeepers in the border area until all parties agreed to stop fighting and begin talks aimed at a political solution.

The report said U.N. peacekeepers could be attacked by rebel groups if they tried to stop cross-border activities and that a U.N. force " would be operating in the midst of continuing hostilities and would have no clear exit strategy."

But council members were unhappy with the report.

"Our goal is a U.N. peacekeeping mission," said Churkin, calling for the new assessment mission to leave "as quickly as possible."

"We are very concerned about people in the region," said South African U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo. "We want to see some action to end the suffering."

(Reuters)