Sudan's foreign minister told reporters on Wednesday that his government supported the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force for Darfur, as authorized by the UN Security Council, while a number of countries in Africa, Asia and Europe volunteered to send troops to join it.
Nigeria, which already makes up the bulk of the 7,000-member African Union force in Darfur, pledged a fourth battalion of troops, and Senegal also said it would consider sending more troops if the soldiers had adequate means to protect themselves. Senegal had threatened to withdraw from the African Union peacekeeping force after five Senegalese soldiers were killed in an ambush earlier this year.
France, Indonesia, Denmark, Sweden and Norway also indicated that they were considering sending troops to bolster the force, which is expected to begin deploying late this year.
At full strength, with about 20,000 soldiers and 6,000 civilian police officers, it will be the world's largest peacekeeping operation, costing US$2 billion in the first year.
The 7,000 troops in place will be absorbed into the new force, which will be a joint operation between the African Union and the UN, led by an African general but largely run by the UN.
Aid groups and human rights activists praised the Security Council resolution approved on Tuesday that authorized the force, but cautioned that it must be put into effect swiftly.
"Given the Sudanese government's past record of obstructing such deployments, we urge the government to facilitate the rapid deployment of the new force," Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Khan said in a statement.
"The people of Darfur have been offered too many words and too many resolutions. Now is the time for effective action."
With an agreement on a peacekeeping force, diplomats turned their attention to talks that are scheduled to begin today in Arusha, Tanzania, aimed at persuading the various rebel groups fighting in Darfur to unite and move toward a peace deal with the Sudanese government.