Sudan

Sudan: UN condemns killing in Darfur as joint force approved

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NAIROBI, 28 May 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has condemned the killing by armed robbers of an Egyptian military officer working for the mission in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

The murder underscores concerns expressed by both the UN agencies and non-governmental organisations over continuing insecurity in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people are estimated to have died since the conflict erupted in 2003 between government forces, allied Arab militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy.

The assailants in the attack on 25 May shot Lieutenant-Colonel Ehab Nazih, a UNMIS Military Staff Officer, after robbing him and seven of his colleagues of money and other valuables, UNMIS said in a statement.

On 16 May, UNMIS warned that continuing violence was threatening humanitarian activities in Darfur. "Incidents of road banditry and fighting between the warring factions continue to disrupt long-term planning," UNMIS spokeswoman Radhia Achouri said in Khartoum.

Referring to North Darfur state, she warned: "If the situation does not improve, the NGOs' suspension of activities could also affect the populations in Kutum Rural, thus leaving 165,000 people without food assistance."

In a related development, the UN Security Council has endorsed plans for the creation of a joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force, and demanded immediate implementation of the UN light and heavy support package of assistance to the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS). The support package was conceived as a stop-gap measure before the creation of the 'hybrid' force.

In a statement read by Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to the UN and the Council's president for May, the Council also demanded that all parties to the conflict in Darfur meet their international obligations, support the political process, end violence against civilians and peacekeepers, and facilitate humanitarian relief.

Sudan has not rejected the proposed UN-African Union force to be made up of more than 23,000 troops, but senior officials in Khartoum, the capital, have expressed misgivings about the size of the proposed force, which they deem too large.

The Sudanese government seemed to favour the strengthening of the 7,000-strong force through UN funding and logistical support. Implementation of the UN light and heavy support package of assistance to AMIS has started, after months of apparent delaying tactics by the Sudanese government.

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