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17 Jun, 2007 18:30

Sudan backs joint UN-African Union force

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has agreed unconditionally to allow a joint UN – African Union peacekeeping force to enter war-torn Darfur. The Sudanese have requested that the 19,000-strong force be under the control of the African Union.

Darfur was the principle topic during the meeting between Security Council envoys and the Sudanese President.

The UN finally secured an unconditional agreement to accept a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.
The 19,000-strong joint peacekeepers will now be on mission in the region.

“The meeting has endorsed the implementation of Comprehensive Peace Agreement to solve the Darfur crisis by peaceful means. The U.S. representative of the delegation said they came with open minds as to how to deal with the situation, the United Nations Security Council has no hidden agenda,” said Sudan’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdul Halin Ahmed Mahmoud.

Sudan initially accepted the plan in November, 2006, but then backtracked before the final agreement. The Sudanese president was insisting that most soldiers should be from Africa and command and control would be under the African Union.

But the UN said the terms would be almost impossible to meet and is hoping for the inclusion of troops from India, Pakistan and China.

The force will be deployed in Darfur next year at the earliest, depending on how quickly the UN and AU are able to get personnel and funds.

“The United Nations, the African Union and the government of Sudan must do everything to accelerate the implementation and get that in place as soon as possible,” Britain's UN Ambassador Emir Jones Parry stressed.

Violence in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes. There is not enough food, water or medicine.

In 2003 a local rebel group took up arms against the Sudanese government, accusing it of decades of neglect.

Sudanese leaders are accused of unleashing the pro-government Arab Militia or Janjaweed to fight them. A charge that Khatoum denies.