Sudan + 1 more

African Union urges UN support for peacekeepers

By Tsegaye Tadesse

ADDIS ABABA, June 15 (Reuters) - The African Union will demand immediate financial and logistical support for its peacekeepers from U.N. Security Council ambassadors visiting its headquarters in Ethiopia on Saturday, an AU official said.

Fifteen envoys are due in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on the first leg of a trip that will also take them to Sudan, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Assane Ba, an AU spokesman, said the continental body would call for increased support for peacekeeping missions it is carrying out on behalf of the United Nations in Sudan's troubled Darfur region and chaotic Somalia's capital Mogadishu.

"The U.N. Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," Ba told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

"It is expected to provide continued and increased support ... and to enhance significantly and rapidly the resource base of the Pan-African organisation which is acting on its behalf."

Lack of funds meant African troops deployed in Darfur had not been for three months at a time, Ba said, while African nations that had offered to send soldiers to support Somalia's interim government had so far been unable to do so.

Top of the agenda for the Security Council ambassadors will be efforts to get a hybrid UN/AU peacekeeping force into Darfur, where some 200,000 people have died in four years of violence.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called Sudan's acceptance on Tuesday of a large force for Darfur "a milestone", but U.N. envoys acknowledge challenges on command structures and finding enough soldiers.


The hybrid force -- made up of 23,000 troops and police -- is not expected to be deployed until next year, when it would shore up a beleaguered AU force of 7,000 soldiers already there.

On Somalia, the ambassadors are expected to hear urgent appeals for funds to help Africa send troops to reinforce 1,600 Ugandans patrolling in Mogadishu, where they have been targeted by Islamist insurgents battling the interim government.

Also high on the agenda will be the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, where U.N. peacekeepers are manning the frontier after a 1998-2000 war that killed some 70,000 people.

In a June 8 letter to the Security Council, Ethiopia's government said it accepted a 2002 border ruling by an independent commission "without precondition", but said Eritrea had made implementation of that decision impossible.

Bereket Simon, a special adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told Reuters the letter only reinforced the government's long-held position that more talks were needed.

"Any other interpretation does not indicate a new Ethiopia policy," he said in Addis Ababa on Friday.

Speaking in Asmara, Eritrean presidential adviser Yemane Ghebremeskel said Ethiopia's letter changed nothing.

"It is a transparent game of semantics," he told Reuters. "They use the words 'without precondition', but the precondition (to negotiate) is there ... the basic content has not changed."

(Additional reporting by Jack Kimball in Asmara)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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