Sudan

Sudan: U.N. police chief calls for more Darfur peacekeepers

By James Grubel

CANBERRA, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Major Western nations must offer more police for Darfur to end four years of violence, the retiring U.N. police chief said on Thursday as the world body struggles to find enough officers for the Sudanese province.

The United Nations Security Council has agreed to send 26,000 U.N. and African Union peacekeepers to the Western Sudanese region to end four years of killing and violence that has left an estimated 200,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced. The mission will need about 6,400 police. But outgoing U.N. police chief Mark Kroeker said the number of officers from major developed nations was dwindling and countries such as Britain, the United States, Canada, Italy and France needed to offer more.

"The countries that have been talking about Darfur need to now do something about Darfur with their deployment of police in probably the most desperate place in the world," Kroeker, an American, told reporters at a police conference in Canberra.

Kroeker, in Australia for a meeting of the International Policing Advisory Council of police chiefs and academics, said countries always faced a difficult choice over releasing police from fighting local crime to take part in overseas missions.

In the past year, United Nations police deployments increased by 30 percent, with the numbers likely to grow significantly in the coming year from the 10,000 police currently on missions.

"The challenge is always a human challenge," the former Los Angeles deputy police chief said. "It really needs good hearted police officers, who are compassionate and competent."

Australian Andrew Hughes, who has been appointed to replace Kroeker as the U.N.'s police chief, said more than 60 countries had committed police to the Darfur mission.

But more were needed for what would be the largest international police operation ever mounted, he said.

Hughes, who was commissioner of police in Fiji before he was expelled by the leaders of a military coup last year, said the key to success in Darfur relied upon establishing a lasting law and justice system.

"You can't just throw police at a problem like that. We have to have proper court system, public defenders, public prosecutors, prisons, a justice system, human rights organisations, NGO's, monitoring watchdogs," Hughes said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will tour Sudan, Chad and Libya next week to lay the foundations for the joint U.N.-African Union mission to Darfur.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur early 2003, accusing central government in Sudan of marginalising the remote west, prompting Khartoum to mobilise militias to quell the revolt.

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