Friday, November 17, 2006

Sudan has agreed "in principle" to accept a United Nations-African Union force says Annan

Sudan agrees "in principle" to UN-AU force: Annan

Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:05 PM EST
By C. Bryson Hull

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Sudan accepts in principle U.N. and African Union forces in its war-ravaged Darfur region but has yet to agree on the number of troops to be deployed, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday.

"It is agreed in principle that, pending clarification of the size of the force, we should be able to take it forward," he told reporters at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

"The troops should be sourced from Africa as far as possible and the command and control structure would be provided by the U.N.," he added.

Diplomats said Sudan had concerns over both the size of the force in Darfur and its command structure.

"The U.N. says 17,000 (troops), that figure is very high. We think 11,000 to 12,000," said Sudan's U.N. ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad.

The United Nations plan, which estimates say could cost more than $1 billion a year, also calls for 3,000 police.

The Sudanese envoy said government officials would respond to the latest proposal before the AU Peace and Security Council meets on November 24 to discuss Darfur.

The West has pushed hard for a U.N. peacekeeping force to help the underfunded AU soldiers, but Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has flatly rejected this and insisted the AU remain in charge.

With the clock ticking toward December 31 when the AU's extended mandate in Darfur expires, diplomats have been struggling to break the impasse over a protection force in western Sudan.

On his farewell trip to Africa, Annan summoned officials from the U.N. Security Council's permanent members, the European Union, Egypt, Gabon and the Arab League to Thursday's one-day talks on Darfur.

The AU also invited Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.

"There is a mood for cooperation between the African Union and the U.N. giving technical support" like mine clearance, staff, logistics and radios," Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol said earlier on Thursday.

"But that must be coupled with pressure on all groups to respect a ceasefire," he added.

Diplomats said AU and U.N. officials will meet rebels who did not sign the Darfur peace deal in the next two weeks.


Violence, disease and hunger have killed some 200,000 people since 2003 and driven more than 2.5 million from their homes. Experts say since one of three rebel factions signed a peace agreement in May the violence has increased.

Before Thursday's meeting began, Sudanese rebels accused government troops and militias of killing more than 50 people in an attack on their positions in north Darfur.

The head of one faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) said government troops, backed by allied Janjaweed militia, attacked its positions in the Deir Mazza area on Wednesday, killing several rebels and the rest civilians.

The government had used fighter planes, Abdel Wahed al-Nur told Reuters, calling the attack "a massive escalation from the government" which would bring an SLA response.

A Sudanese army spokesman, who declined to be named, said the report was "100 percent incorrect."

Akol blamed rebels for trying to undermine peace.
"Unfortunately, when you have war, people die, which is why we are serious about ending it," he added.

There was no immediate word from the AU.

U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland arrived in Darfur on Thursday for a three-day trip but was told all of his proposed destinations were too insecure to visit.

Fighting between the government and Darfur rebels has spilled into both Chad and the Central African Republic.

Darfur erupted in 2003 when mostly non-Arabs began fighting for a bigger slice of power and resources, and the government in turn backed and armed Arab militia known as Janjaweed, who have pillaged, raped and killed villagers.

(Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom in Sudan, Katherine Baldwin in London and Alaa Shahine in Cairo)

News Article by AFP posted on November 16, 2006 at 17:55:16: EST (-5 GMT)

UN chief seeks elusive Darfur consensus at African Union

ADDIS ABABA, Nov 16, 2006 (AFP) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan held high-level talks here Thursday aimed at forging elusive consensus on how to deal with Sudan's troubled western Darfur region but appeared stymied.

In meeting with senior African Union, Sudanese and Arab League officials Annan met stiff resistance from Sudan for his plan to create a hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping mission to deal with escalating violence in Darfur.

Sudan is vehemently opposed to a UN role despite the cash-strapped AU's appeals for it to be transfered to the world body and efforts to convince Khartoum to ease its stance have thus far yielded little success.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters that his government was willing to allow some international support for the AU mission, known as AMIS, but would never accept UN command of the force.

"We are ready to accept the assistance of the UN to support the AMIS in terms of telecommunications, logistics, technical assistance, but the command of the troops should remain African," he said.

Asked about the possibility of blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers in Darfur, he replied simply "No."

But a day after saying in neighboring Kenya that he still hoped to send UN peacekeepers to Darfur, Annan expressed hope the meeting would produce results.

"We are having very good discussions, very constructive," he told reporters during a break, adding that individual working groups would meet on three elements before the main players resumed their plenary meeting late Thursday.

The UN chief, on his final tour of Africa as the world's top diplomat before stepping down at year's end, was meeting with AU commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare and AU Peace and Security Council chief Said Djinnit.

In addition to Akol, representatives from Gabon and Congo, the current AU chair, and the Arab League, are also present.

"We have not given up on UN presence in Darfur," Annan said Wednesday while attending a UN climate change conference in Nairobi.

"We need to continue efforts to calm Darfur, to get assistance to the internally displaced and to gain access for humanitarian workers," he said, adding that UN staff might also be sent to neighboring Chad.

"We are looking at putting some sort of international presence on the border with Chad to ensure cross-border attacks are minimal," Annan said.

One AU official predicted Thursday's meeting would not produce significant results in addressing the escalating unrest in Darfur that has raged for more than three years, mainly because Annan will soon leave his post.

"This meeting may not yield much," the official who is close to Konare told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Everyone is holding to their position and knows that Kofi Annan is on his way out."

A UN official said Sudan has already made contact with Ban Ki-Moon, the South Korean foreign minister who will replace Annan as the head of the world body in January 1, 2007.

Sudan says handing the AU mission to the United Nations threatens its sovereignty and risks worsening the situation in Darfur where at least 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million others displaced by the war.

It instead favours a reinforced and expanded AU mission, the mandate for which was to have expired on September 30 but has since been extended to the end of the year.

The African Union has announced plans to boost the mission from the current 7,000 to 11,000 but has been unable to move the additional personnel in due to funding woes and lack of transportation assets.

The war in Darfur erupted in February 2003 when rebels from minority tribes took up arms to demand an equal share of national resources, prompting a heavyhanded crackdown from the government forces and proxy militia called Janjaweed.

Africa needs help for Darfur peacekeeping: MPs

News Article by AFP posted on November 16, 2006 at 17:53:45: EST (-5 GMT)

MIDRAND, South Africa, Nov 16, 2006 (AFP) - Africans hold the key in resolving local wars such as Sudan's Darfur conflict but need foreign aid to beef up peacekeeping, lawmakers from the continent said Thursday.

Under-funded and ill-equipped African peacekeepers are struggling in Sudan to curtail the spiralling humanitarian crisis as Khartoum resists a bid to have African Union (AU) troops replaced by a United Nations force, they said.

"The solution for us as Africans is African," Algerian MP Boudina Mostefa told a session of the Pan-African Parliament at its seat in Midrand, near Johannesburg.

"It is the African Union that must act and use armed force not foreigners. If foreign powers sincerely want to establish peace they should assist and help the AU through other means."

According to the UN, at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur from the combined effects of fighting, famine and disease since ethnic minority rebels rose up in early 2003, drawing a scorched earth response from the government.

Some sources say the toll is much higher.

The MPs also questioned the efficacy of the Abuja peace accord, saying the deal, like many other peace agreements on the continent offered an incomplete peace as it was not accepted by all parties.

Khartoum signed the May peace deal with the largest Darfur rebel group but the other two factions which took part in the talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja declined to sign, further complicating the work of the AU force.

El Hadj Diao Kante, the chairman of the permanent committee on cooperation, international relations and conflicts, said the Pan-African Parliament should seek the full payment of 200 million dollars pledged to the African Union during a donors conference in Brussels in July.

"These resources are vital to supporting the AU's mandate in Darfur and will be key to maintaining a formidable presence in the conflict ridden region," Kante said.

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