August 29, 2006

U.S., Britain seek quick vote on U.N. force for Sudan

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain and the United States
called for a vote on Thursday on a U.N. resolution to allow the
United Nations to begin assembling a peacekeeping force for
Sudan's Darfur region, despite opposition from the government
in Khartoum.

The resolution would require the Sudanese government's
consent before actual deployment, but Western powers expect
Khartoum to eventually accept a U.N. presence in Darfur, as it
already has in southern Sudan.

"I think council colleagues understand why we really do
need to act" in Darfur, British U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones
Parry said on Tuesday after two weeks of Security Council
deliberations on the measure drafted by Washington and London.

"Our judgment here is that we think we've found a
formulation that would win acceptance on the council and
achieve the objective we've been seeking, which is the early
transfer of (peacekeeping) responsibility in Darfur to the
United Nations," said U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.

The envoys spoke with reporters a day after U.N. Emergency
Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland warned the 15-nation council of
a looming new humanitarian disaster in Darfur and said U.N.
inaction could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The two ambassadors said a revised text would be circulated
before council talks set for Wednesday.

Diplomats said it would state explicitly that the force
could go in only with the Sudan government's consent, since
council members agreed deployment would be impossible without

"It will address consent among other issues and will be
clear on how the transition will take place," Jones Parry said.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has strongly
resisted Western pressure to deploy a large and highly mobile
U.N. force to stem what Washington says is genocide in Darfur.

The conflict erupted in 2003, pitting mostly non-Arab
rebels against government troops and government-backed mostly
Arab militias called Janjaweed. Tens of thousands have died and
2.5 million driven from their homes and into squalid camps.

Bashir on Tuesday rebuffed a fresh plea from President Bush
-- conveyed by State Department official Jendayi Frazer -- to
accept U.N. troops in the region.

Bush's request was delivered a day after Sudan boycotted
U.N. Security Council talks on the Darfur crisis. Bashir has
stood firm against a U.N. force despite an endorsement from the
African Union, which now has 7,000 soldiers in Darfur but
acknowledges they have been unable to protect civilians.

The mandate of the African Union force, approved by the
Security Council, is due to expire at the end of September.