Sudan

U.N. envoys say Sudan in agreement on Darfur force

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By Simon Apiku

KHARTOUM, June 17 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council will recommend that the world body fund a joint African Union-U.N. peacekeeping mission for Darfur, after receiving assurances it would be controlled by the U.N, envoys said on Sunday.

After months of talks, threats and negotiations, Khartoum agreed to at least 20,000 troops and police for Darfur, but had said that most soldiers should come from Africa and command and control would be under the AU.

The United Nations was however reluctant to fund a mission where it did not have overall control.

"Command and control processes will be those of the United Nations," said British envoy Emyr Jones Parry. "And that is necessary if indeed this operation is to be funded from the peacekeeping budget of the United Nations," he added.

South African ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said the Security Council would be recommending that the general assembly fund the force, which may entail 20-25,000 troops and police.

"We expect that this will happen within the month," he told reporters after two hours of talks with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during a visit to Khartoum on Sunday.

Darfur rebels said the Council should not be fooled by glib promises from Khartoum officials.

"They should put more pressure on the Khartoum government and not rely on Khartoum's statements alone," said Ahmed Abdel Shafie, a senior figure in the rebel Sudan Liberation Army.

Since a peace deal last year signed by only one of three negotiating rebel factions, the insurgents have split into more than a dozen difference movements, hindering a joint AU-U.N. push to reenergise a peace process.

Law and order has collapsed in Darfur with almost daily ambushes on aid convoys, while a struggling AU peacekeeping force has also come under attack, losing equipment and dozens of vehicles.

The Security Council has not yet ruled out the threat of U.N. sanctions on Sudan, and diplomats said there had been discussions about imposing a no-fly zone in Darfur and an arms embargo on the entire country.

Kumalo declined to speak on behalf of the council, but said South Africa thought sanctions no longer appeared necessary.

"It would be very difficult to make up a solid argument for sanctions," he said.

Aid agencies fear a no-fly zone would endanger the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur, where most staff and supplies are moved by air because of banditry on the roads.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in early 2003, accusing central government of neglecting the remote region bordering Chad. International experts estimate 200,000 have died over four years of rape, killing, looting and disease, which has driven 2.5 million from their homes. (Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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