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UN weighs options for Sudan's Darfur region as funds for African Union force run low

12 January 2006 With funding running out for the African Union’s force in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Security Council members today reviewed their options, including having the UN eventually take over the peacekeeping function.

“From what I know, they (the AU) have resources up till March,” Mr. Annan told journalists after his monthly luncheon with the 15 Security Council members.

“We did discuss eventual UN involvement, but, of course, it will mean we can only get involved once the African Union mandate has ended and we are in discussions with them,” he said, adding, “At this stage, we have started contingency planning to be ready if and when the decision is taken for us to go in.”

For more than a year, the Security Council has sought to end the civil strife, disarm the marauding Janjaweed Arab militia, halt impunity and find a political solution. The Council has also imposed an arms embargo, assets freeze and travel ban on belligerents in Darfur, and has referred the situation there to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr. Annan said today that the number of people of Darfur the UN was feeding had risen to 3 million from 1 million, but the media spotlight has waned.

The AU’s chairman, former Malian President Alpha Oumar Konaré, would come to New York or hold a meeting elsewhere to discuss details, but a UN force could not be prepared by March and there should not be a gap between the mandates of the two forces, Mr. Annan said.

At an AU ministerial meeting on Darfur today, Mr. Konaré indicated that the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) would stay on for another nine to 12 months if the donor community gave it the necessary resources and logistical support. If those were not forthcoming, AMIS would run out of funds by March, Mr. Annan said.

“Obviously the international community cannot allow that situation to go unaddressed and, in all likelihood, will have to look at other options, including possibly the UN working with the African Union to address that situation. But they need money. They need it quickly,” he said.

Meanwhile, given the size of the territory whichever force was deployed there would have to be structured differently, placing more emphasis on mobility and quick responses needing sophisticated equipment and logistical support. “I will be turning to governments with that kind of capacity, if we were to be given the mandate,” he said.

In September the UN’s largest summit ever approved a resolution on the responsibility of all governments to protect their citizens and the Secretary-General said today that Sudan would present the first challenge under that measure. Sudan had said it would only accept African troops, “but we have gone beyond that now,” he added.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has the task of supporting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Nairobi, Kenya, one year ago. It also has a mandate from the Security Council to provide some support to AMIS in Darfur.


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