Sudan accepts UN-African force for Darfur without conditions - Council official

Sudan's Government has agreed to support unconditionally the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in the Darfur region following talks in Khartoum with a delegation of the Security Council, which said that it would seek funding for the operation from the UN budget.

"I can tell you that the Foreign Minister told us in no uncertain terms that the Government of Sudan accepted the hybrid operation without any conditionality. The President himself just confirmed the same thing to us," Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa said at a press conference following the meetings.

"The Sudanese leadership, at the level of the President of the Republic, has confirmed that the State of Sudan is committed to all the agreements signed - including the recent agreement signed in Addis Ababa on a hybrid operation in Darfur," Sudan's Foreign Minister, Lam Akol, told reporters.

"The President of the Republic has made it clear that the ball is now in the court of the United Nations," he added.

Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom said the Security Council's would seek financing for the force from the UN's regular peacekeeping budget, meaning that the cost would be borne by all UN Member States.

"We all laid heavy emphasis in two long constructive meetings and over lunch" on the hybrid force with emphasis on the need "to accelerate the implementation and get that in place as soon as possible," he said.

Stressing that "there isn't going to be an enduring peace unless there is a political settlement," he said Council members called for accelerated efforts on that front. "The Government confirmed its commitment to pursue that, and I quote the Minister, 'aggressively' - meaning that the Government is fully committed to it."

Sudanese officials also provided "certain assurances" on humanitarian access to those in need.

On the need for a ceasefire, Ambassador Jones Parry said the Council members stressed that Government "should exercise a measure of self-restraint faced with lots of temptations given the performance of the rebels."

The purpose of the visit was to reaffirm the Council's commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Sudan while encouraging its Government and other parties to engage constructively in the Darfur peace process, said Ambassador Kumalo.

In addition the aim was to "achieve without delay, full agreement" on deploying the hybrid operation. The Council also "came to encourage all parties here to fully implement the ceasefire agreement," he added.

Asked when the Council would recommend that the General Assembly authorize funding for the hybrid force, Ambassador Kumalo said this would happen "within a month."