August 31, 2006

U.N. votes for control over Darfur peacekeepers

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on
Thursday voted to create a United Nations peacekeeping force in
Sudan's Darfur region, despite the Khartoum government's strong

The vote was 12 in favor, with abstentions from Russia,
China and Qatar, the only Arab council member.

But the troops will not be deployed until Sudan consents.
The United Nations wants to replace and absorb an African Union
force in Darfur, which has only enough money to exist until its
mandate expires on September 30. It has been unable to halt the
humanitarian crisis in the lawless west of the country, which
the United States describes as genocide.

"It is imperative that we move immediately to implement it
fully to stop the tragic events unfolding in Darfur," U.S.
Ambassador John Bolton said. "Every day we delay only adds to
the suffering of the Sudanese people and extends the genocide."

The resolution calls for up to 22,500 U.N. troops and
police officers and an immediate injection of air, engineering
and communications support for the 7,000-member African force.

The measure, drafted by Britain and the United States, is
designed to allow planning and recruitment of troops for an
eventual handover.

The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003, when non-Arab
rebels took up arms against the government. In response, the
government mobilized Arab militias known as Janjaweed, who have
been accused of murder, rape and looting.

Fighting, disease and hunger have killed some 200,000
people driven some 2.5 million into squalid camps.

Rebel groups have splintered and are now conducting similar
atrocities against civilians. Bloodshed has only increased
since the government signed a peace agreement with two rebel
groups in May and Sudan is planning to send some 10,500 troops
into Darfur, which the West fears will lead to full-scale war.


Sudan's U.N. envoys refused to attend the meeting. In
Khartoum, Ali Tamin Fartak, a presidential adviser, told
Reuters, "Our stand is very clear, that the Sudanese government
has not been consulted and it is not appropriate to pass a
resolution before they seek the permission of Sudan."

Another presidential adviser, Majzoub al-Khalifa, told Al
Jazeera television that the resolution was "illegal."

U.N. officials have warned of a catastrophe if help does
not come soon. Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator,
said the people driven into camps are in danger from both
pro-government militia and rebel groups.

Escalating violence has reduced aid access in Darfur to its
lowest level since the conflict began. Another aid worker was
confirmed killed in Darfur on Wednesday bringing the total to
12 deaths since the May peace deal.

Council members hoped Sudan would not refuse an immediate
strengthening of the African Union force. Arab nations have
vowed to support the African troops but have not done so yet.

The resolution allows U.N. troops to force to protect U.N.
personnel and facilities and prevent attacks and threats
against civilians.

Russia and China said the timing of the resolution was
awkward because Sudan's consent was needed and risked
triggering further violence in Darfur. Qatar pointed to Sudan's
plan to send troops to Darfur, which it called positive.

Darfur rebels said on Thursday that Sudanese planes and
troops attacked villages in the western region ahead of the
U.N. Security Council vote. A Sudanese armed forces spokesman
said the army did have forces in the region.

The United Nations has some 10,000 troops, mainly from
Asia, in southern Sudan to monitor a peace agreement that ended
a separate ethnic conflict there. It is expected initially to
move some units to Darfur, along with contingents of African
soldiers in the region now. (Additional reporting by Opheera
McDoom in Khartoum)