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UN Security Council Urges Speedy Deployment of Darfur Peacekeepers

By Margaret Besheer
United Nations
11 March 2008

The U.N. Security Council has expressed deep concern about the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan, where violence has surged recently, and has called for all parties to observe a cease-fire. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin who is president of the Security Council this month, said members reiterated the need for the speedy deployment of the U.N.-African Union hybrid force known as UNAMID and underlined the importance of promoting the peace process in Darfur.

"The members of the Security Council expressed profound concern about the continuing complex security and humanitarian situation in Darfur," he said. "They urged in this context, all Sudanese parties to observe the cease-fire, refrain from any hostilities and respect the norms of international humanitarian law."

The council was briefed by U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Edmond Mulet, who warned that the recent surge in Sudanese government air strikes and rebel attacks demonstrates a lack of commitment on either side for peace talks.

"On the one hand, negotiations are required to bring this crisis to an end, but with the government intent on military action and the rebels either fighting or fragmenting, it is difficult to see an opening for political negotiations," he said. "On the other hand, a peacekeeping operation alone cannot bring security to Darfur."

He added that the peacekeeping operation cannot be a substitute for political engagement, and is not a tool for addressing the causes of the conflict.

The Sudanese government has been partly blamed for the latest upsurge in fighting, including a large-scale ground and air campaign aimed at reestablishing its control over parts of West Darfur under rebel control. Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Mohamad defended the strikes, saying Khartoum is protecting its people from the rebels.

"We are doing the responsibility any state should do when confronted with a rebellion activities, attacks on civilians," he said. "These attacks will continue. These attacks will continue as long as the rebels are threatening the people, are killing the people."

The council urged all parties to refrain from violence, and Ambassador Churkin, speaking in his national capacity, said Moscow has raised the subject of sanctions against parties that are blocking the peace process.

More than 9,000 international military and police personnel are in Darfur. The United Nations says in the coming weeks several more units will deploy, including an Egyptian transport unit, a Nigerian medical unit as well as regular troops from Egypt and Ethiopia.

Deployment of troops has been slowed by Sudanese objections to the composition of the force and also by a lack of equipment, such as helicopters. The United Nations hopes to have 26,000 troops and police on the ground in Darfur.

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