Home | News    Thursday 2 February 2006

US, UK move to get UN troops into Darfur

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Feb 1, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — The United States wants the Security Council to approve a U.N. peacekeeping force for Sudan’s violent Darfur region where fighting, rape and murder persist, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

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A Sudanese girl recovers from injuries sustained during an attack on her community. (USAID).

"What we hope to accomplish in February is the decision by the U.N. Security Council, which would include the nature of the mission and issues of the size of the mission, implementation," Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told reporters in Washington.

At the United Nations, the United States and Britain were drafting a Security Council statement for approval next week that would ask U.N. officials to draft plans for a Darfur force as a first step, council envoys said.

But the diplomats did not expect council authorization this month when U.S. Ambassador John Bolton holds the rotating presidency of the 15-member body.

The African Union, which has some 7,000 troops spread thin over an area the size of France, has not yet agreed to join or turn over its mission to the United Nations.

Nor has Khartoum given its consent.

Others, like China, which has large oil interests in Sudan, would probably call for a U.N. force only if the African Union and Khartoum approves, the envoys said.

While U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur are "now inevitable," the steps to integrate the African Union force in Darfur with U.N. troops would take at least six months, U.N. officials said.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, has already started planning but needs a firm decision from the 15-member council before recruiting any troops. A U.S.-British statement, if approved, is the first step toward a U.N. operation.

No one knows who would join such a force, with Annan hoping Western nations, including the United States and Europeans, would help with an aggressive mobile force and air power.

2 MILLION HOMELESS

The Darfur conflict erupted into violence in early 2003 when African tribes took up arms accusing the Arab-dominated Khartoum government of neglect. The government retaliated by arming Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, who began a campaign of murder, rape, arson and plunder and drove 2 million villagers into squalid camps. Khartoum denies the charge.

"Looking back at three years of killings and (ethnic) cleansing in Darfur, we must admit that our peace strategy so far has failed," Jan Pronk, the top U.N. envoy in Khartoum, said in mid-January.

"All we did was picking up the pieces and muddling through, doing too little too late," he told the Security Council.

With Bolton holding the council presidency for February, the calls for U.S. action increased.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group think tank in Brussels called for Washington to "urgently seek a transition of the African Union force in Darfur to a United Nations mission with a strong mandate to protect civilians."

In letters to U.S. President George W. Bush and the 15 Security Council members, the two organizations said militia continued to operate with impunity in Darfur.

"The Sudanese government has failed time and again to fulfill its promises to cease its attacks on its own citizens," said former Australian Foreign Minister and International Crisis Group President Gareth Evans.

Kenneth Bacon, president of Refugees International, said, "Mr. Bolton, who has called for stronger enforcement of arms embargoes against Sudan, should demand the release of an unpublished United Nations study listing those countries that ship weapons to rebels and Khartoum-backed militias."

(Reuters)

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