A senior United Nations peacekeeping official said today that the world body is stepping up its preparations for the heavy support package to the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan, while efforts are under way to establish a hybrid UN-African Union force.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said to reporters after briefing the Security Council.
The current focus is on expediting the deployment of the heavy support package, which is the second leg of the three-phase programme to support and enhance the under-resourced AU Mission in Darfur (AMIS), he said.
"Most, if not all" the offers necessary have been received, he noted, and the next step will be for potential contributors to visit Darfur to assess the situation to determine equipment needs.
Regarding the hybrid operation, the last phase of the programme, Mr. Annabi welcomed the Sudanese Government's unconditional support of a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force in Darfur following talks with a Council delegation earlier this month.
He added that the 15-member body will next adopt a resolution regarding the establishment of such a force, after which a budget must be prepared.
A large troop contributors' meeting will be held this Friday to discuss the "shape and form of this hybrid operation," the official said.
Mr. Annabi said that despite the challenges the new hybrid force - which will report to both the UN and the AU - could face, the two organizations are "committed to working together to coordinate their work so that the operation can work as smoothly as possible."