Sudan concerned by UN-AU Darfur force mandate

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM, July 15 (Reuters) - Sudan said on Sunday it had reservations about the mandate given to a 26,000-strong U.N.-African Union Darfur force under a draft U.N. Security Council resolution.

After months of talks, threats and negotiations, Khartoum finally agreed to the force to bolster 7,000 struggling AU troops and police who have failed to stem the violence which international experts estimate has killed 200,000.

"At the current stage we do not accept it, we have reservations," said foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig.

"We are engaged in consultations with the members of the Security Council ... we believe we will come to an agreed language," he added.

He declined to give specifics but said the concerns were not about the number of troops, but the mandate.

The draft resolution said the joint force was "authorised to use all necessary means," and was to be deployed under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which would give the troops authority to use force to protect the millions of civilians under threat in Sudan's remote west.

Sudanese officials have in the past said they would refuse to accept any force under a Chapter VII mandate in Darfur.

Sadig said that language in the resolution did not conform to the agreement in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last month to accept the joint force.

The force was unlikely to deploy before next year. The draft resolution would authorise the world body to begin recruitment for the force. Sudan has said most of the troops should be from Africa.

While Sudan's agreement to the resolution is not needed, member states would be concerned the government may obstruct the deployment or operations of the force if Khartoum disagreed with its mandate.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglecting the remote region. Khartoum mobilised militias, known as Janjaweed, to quell the revolt.

Those militias stand accused of mass rape, murder and looting. One militia leader and a junior cabinet minister are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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