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Russia to send military observers to Darfur - UN envoy

RIA Novosti

22/09/2007 11:30 UNITED NATIONS, September 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is planning to send a group of military experts to Darfur to join the largest UN peacekeeping operation to date, Russia's envoy to the UN said Saturday.

In June, Khartoum agreed, after almost a year of rejection, to a peacekeeping operation in Darfur, to be run jointly by the UN and the African Union (AU), which will provide a total of 23,000 troops. The 53-member AU currently has a 7,000-strong force in the region, but has so far been unable to stop fighting.

"The preparation for the unprecedented joint peacekeeping mission involving the African Union and the United Nations is going according to plans despite obvious complications," Vitaly Churkin said at a high-level meeting on Darfur.

"Russia will join this [Darfur] operation and will send its military observers [to the region]," the Russian diplomat said.

Russia is the third in the world in terms of the number of military observers participating in UN peacekeeping missions.

The UN estimates violence and disease have killed at least 200,000 and forced 2 million from their homes in Darfur since 2003, when rebel groups began fighting with the pro-government Jangaweed militia. The rebel groups, mainly made up of black African farmers, accuse the government in Khartoum of discrimination in favor of the Arab population and want a fairer slice in oil revenues.

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