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Secretary-General receives reply from Sudan on Darfur; contains some positives: UN

9 March 2007 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has received a letter from Sudan’s President replying to his earlier correspondence detailing a proposed United Nations-African Union (AU) hybrid force of up to 24,000 personnel to help resolve the deadly conflict in the Darfur region, which has already killed over 200,000 people and uprooted 2.5 million more.

Mr. Ban received the letter on Thursday afternoon, along with a 14-page annex in Arabic, which is currently being translated, spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York today, adding that once both are reviewed the Secretary-General will then consult with the Security Council on the next steps.

“The letter contains some positive elements, including a strong expression of support for the joint African Union-UN efforts to re-energize the political process and some assurances with regard to humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur. But it also contains some elements, which seem to challenge the agreements reached last November in Addis Ababa and Abuja on peacekeeping in Darfur,” she said.

On 24 January, Mr. Ban and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Alpha Oumar Konaré, sent identical letters to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir, transmitting details of the hybrid force for Darfur, but received no response. Yesterday, a UN spokesperson said the Secretary-General had written a new letter.

The hybrid force represents the final phase of a three-phase plan agreed to by the UN, AU and Sudanese Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last year to help end the fighting between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy, which broke out in 2003.

The first phase, a $21-million light support package already underway, provides for supplying UN military advisers, police officers and civilian officials as well as equipment to the existing under-staffed AU monitoring mission in Darfur (AMIS).

Earlier this week, Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson, who was in Sudan last month on a joint diplomatic mission with Salim Ahmed Salim of the AU, told reporters that the Sudanese had accepted in principle the hybrid force.



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