June 13, 2006

S.Africa’s Mbeki to push Sudan on U.N. peace force

By Andrew Quinn

PRETORIA (Reuters) - South African President Thabo Mbeki
will visit Sudan on June 20, hoping to press Khartoum to
approve a U.N. takeover of an African Union peacekeeping
operation there, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

Mbeki's one-day visit would include talks with Sudanese
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and First Vice-President Salva
Kiir, who is also president of South Sudan, Deputy Foreign
Minister Aziz Pahad said.

"This will be a good opportunity for the president ... to
discuss progress made," Pahad told reporters.

He said Mbeki's visit would seek ways to strengthen
implementation of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the
deal struck 18 months ago that ended a 20-year civil war in the
southern part of the country.

However, he said Mbeki would also press Khartoum to agree
to an African Union proposal to allow the United Nations to
take over from a 7,000-member AU force that is struggling to
monitor a widely-ignored truce in Sudan's western Darfur

"You cannot manage without it (a U.N. presence)," Pahad
said. "The situation is grave."

Pahad said South Africa hoped most of the peacekeepers
would still come from African countries, which could allay what
analysts say are Sudanese fears that a U.N. force would seek to
arrest officials and government-allied militia leaders likely
to be indicted by the International Criminal Court
investigating alleged war crimes.

He said Pretoria, which itself has 437 troops in the AU
force in Darfur, believed that only the U.N. would have the
resources needed to mount an effective peacekeeping operation.


Sudan's Foreign Minister Lam Akol said discussions were
necessary on the future role of the U.N. in Sudan.

"We said that once a peace agreement is signed, we are
ready to discuss with the U.N. what role they can play, like
what we did in the south," Akol said after a meeting with
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy in Paris.

"We are discussing now the kind of mission -- What is the
mission of the force that will come, what size, what
composition, which areas they come from," he said.

Akol said Khartoum would meet deadlines in a the
AU-mediated deal signed on May 5 with one of three rebel
factions, calling for Khartoum to present a plan to disarm the
Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, by June 22 and to complete
disarmament by the end of October.

"Yes. We intend to comply with the provisions and deadlines
that are provided for in the Darfur peace agreement," he said.

A senior U.N. official, in Sudan on a week-long mission
seeking to plan for a possible transition, said on Monday that
U.N. troops would not be able to deploy in Darfur before
January 2007, making it likely that the AU force would remain
in the country beyond its September 30 mandate.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than
two million forced from their homes in fighting since non-Arab
rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing the Arab-dominated
government of monopolizing wealth and power and marginalizing

Washington has described the violence as genocide, which is
denied by Khartoum.