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SUDAN: Government ready to sign pact on UNAMID deployment - official

ADDIS ABABA, 1 February 2008 (IRIN) - The government of Sudan has agreed to sign an agreement that would facilitate the deployment of the joint United Nations and African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in the strife-torn western region of Darfur, Sudan's ambassador to the UN said.

"The agreement is ready for signature," Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad told IRIN on the sidelines of the AU summit in Addis Ababa on 31 January. "We decided to sign the agreement next week," Mohamad said of the tripartite status of forces agreement (SFA) between the UN, AU and the Sudanese government.

The Sudanese government had objected to the possible inclusion of non-African units in the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID. It had also not made land available for use by UNAMID, and had misgivings about allowing UNAMID helicopters to fly at night.

These issues were discussed during a meeting in Addis Ababa between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir.

The agreement will define the parameters for the composition, type of equipment and weapons UNAMID will possess, as well as assign land for use by the mission.

"It is sort of an operational and practical measure," Mohamad said of the agreement. "It also contains what the government will give them [UNAMID] in terms of immunities and what will be their privileges in the country."

The head of the UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, also told reporters in Addis Ababa that the agreement would be signed "very shortly".

"All the key issues have been resolved," said Guéhenno. "On the composition of the force, we understand the position of the government is that [it will be] predominantly an African force, that is why we expedited the deployment of African units.

"We want at the same time to prepare for the deployment of a few non-African units for capacity that might not be available in Africa," added Guéhenno.

Mohamad said the Sudanese government no longer opposed night flights. "We also accept different types of helicopters," he said.

UNAMID was created under the Security Council's Resolution 1769 of 31 July 2007 and is to comprise up to 19,555 military personnel, 3,772 police officers and 5,105 civilians, making it one of the largest peacekeeping operations in the world.

The under-resourced AU force comprised about 7,000 troops and 1,200 police. UNAMID is initially made up of almost entirely of the AU personnel already on the ground, with significant additional deployments not expected for several months.

"We should seek forces from the African continent. If we have not got enough, then we should look outside Africa," Mustafa Osman Ismail, the Sudanese president's adviser on Darfur, told IRIN.

"For the time being we will have [forces] from Pakistan, China and medical assistance from The Netherlands. So we are not saying that it should be 100 percent African," he said.

He said the priority now should be transporting African personnel to Darfur, adding that Sudan should not be blamed for the delay in deployment.

Since the conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million more forced from their homes. About 4.2 million Darfuris depend on humanitarian assistance.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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