August 30, 2006

Sudan seen to consent to U.N. force

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Sudan may consent to a U.N.
peacekeeping force sooner than expected once the Security
Council adopts a resolution authorizing the operation, U.S.
Ambassador John Bolton said on Wednesday.

Despite Khartoum's opposition, the United States and
Britain are pushing for a vote on Thursday on a resolution that
would augment an African Union force immediately with air,
engineering and communications support and authorize a U.N.
operation of up to 22,500 troops and police next year.

The six-page, 2,600-word resolution appears to have gained
enough support to pass, despite opposition from Qatar, the only
Arab member of the council, which supports Sudanese President
Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who had raised strong objections.

"I think there is a chicken and an egg situation here,"
Bolton told reporters. "Once the resolution is passed, the
consent may be forthcoming more rapidly than people think."

The document makes clear that the U.N. force cannot be
deployed without the agreement of Bashir's government, although
diplomats believe Sudan would be in a weak position to oppose
U.N. strengthening of the 7,000-strong African Union force,
which is under-financed and on the verge of collapse.

Ghanaian Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng, this month's
council president, said after closed-door council discussions,
that "all indications are that it will be adopted" on Thursday.

"But it doesn't mean we are shutting the door to
negotiations with the Government of Sudan," he said.

However, he said, "This council also has certain
responsibilities that it has to live up to."


Effah-Apenteng, whose country has troops with the African
Union in Darfur and supports a U.N. force, said the council was
inviting high-level officials from Sudan, the Arab League and
the Islamic Conference to a meeting on September 8. Sudan had
boycotted a similar council invitation on Monday.

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

The fighting drove some 2.5 million people into squalid
camps. In recent months, rebels have split into factions and
carried out banditry and atrocities against civilians.

The United Nations has some 10,000 troops, mainly from
Asia, in southern Sudan to monitor a peace agreement there and
is expected initially to move some units to Darfur, along with
contingents of African soldiers in the region now.

The Arab League would like a delay in adopting the
resolution, which is aimed at putting pressure on Sudan as well
as allowing the United Nations to assemble a force.

But Bolton said, "Each day that you delay adopting the
resolution is a day that pushes out the planning and logistical
work that has to take place."

The latest draft gives wide latitude to a U.N. operation to
use force to protect U.N. personnel, humanitarian workers and
to prevent attacks against civilians. The troops are also to
collect and dispose of unauthorized weapons.

The document also sets up political, humanitarian, military
and civilian police liaison officers in neighboring Chad, where
Sudan refugees had fled and villagers along the Sudanese border
have been evicted from their homes.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to report to the
Security Council on how civilians can be protected in camps on
the Chadian side of the Darfur border.