Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Security Council OK's peacekeepers for southern Sudan

AP , United Nations

The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution giving a green light for the UN to prepare for a peacekeeping operation in southern Sudan and calling for a halt to fighting in the western Darfur region and elsewhere.

Friday's resolution welcomes the signing of a declaration on June 5 by representatives of the Sudanese government and southern rebels covering six previously negotiated protocols, and their commitment to complete a peace agreement.

Among the procedures left to finalize are an internationally monitored cease-fire agreement and a timeline for implementing the pact that will end a 21-year civil war. Talks to put together the comprehensive peace agreement will begin June 22.

The Security Council urged the government and southern rebels to conclude the agreement "speedily," saying it would contribute "to improved stability and peace in Sudan."

Sudan's UN Ambassador Elfatih Mohamed Erwa said "right now there is peace in the south."

A ceasefire has been in place for two years, he said, and now that "the major obstacles" in a final agreement have been overcome the last issue is implementation.

The resolution welcomes Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal to establish an advance team, for an initial three-month period, to make contact with the parties and prepare for an international monitoring mission once a final peace agreement is signed.

The council asked Annan to make recommendations on the size, structure and mandate of a UN operation "as soon as possible" after the final deal is reached.

In the meantime, the resolution authorizes the United Nations to start pre-positioning critical supplies and personnel to facilitate rapid deployment of a possible mission to assist in monitoring and verifying compliance with the final peace deal.

During final negotiations on the text of the resolution, there was a debate over whether the fighting in Darfur should be included, because it is separate from the conflict in the south.

Late last month, the Security Council put new pressure on the Sudanese government to end the conflict in Darfur, where thousands have been killed in fighting between Arab militias and the black African population. Thousands more have been driven from their homes and the United Nations says 2 million people are in acute need of food and medical help.

The resolution adopted Friday calls for an immediate halt to fighting in Darfur and in the Upper Nile, calls for a political agreement "without delay," and welcomes African Union efforts to help achieve one.

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