The UN Security Council approved a joint African Union (AU)-UN peacekeeping force for Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region in an unprecedented bid to end four years of bloodshed in the area.
The 15-member body on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve Resolution 1769 mandating a 26,000-strong "hybrid" force, to be known as UNAMID, to take over peacekeeping in Darfur from 7,000 ill-equipped AU troops.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately hailed as "historic and unprecedented" the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Britain, Belgium, Congo, France, Italy, Peru and Slovakia.
Although it also backed the resolution, the US took a tough stance toward Khartoum, warning of sanctions if it did not comply with the Security Council measure.
"If Sudan does not comply ... the United States will move for the swift adoption of unilateral and multilateral measures" against Khartoum, US ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said.
The vote came only hours after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a speech at the UN, also threatened sanctions if the violence in the Sudanese western region did not stop.
China, which has come under criticism over its friendly relations with the regime in Sudan, chose to support the resolution.
"This is the result of concerted effort and should be fully recognized and encouraged," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔箎) said just hours after the UN vote.
"Good implementation of the resolution is of highest importance," he said on the sidelines of an Asian security conference in Manila.
China is Sudan's biggest arms supplier and oil customer.
Britain and France, which spearheaded weeks of intensive council bargaining that led to Tuesday's agreement, hailed adoption of the text.
"We must ensure that a large, robust, effective and coherent [hybrid] force deploys to Darfur in the coming months, to protect civilians, to prevent armed attacks, from any quarter, to give hope and security to the people of Darfur," Britain's outgoing UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters.
And he called for speedier delivery of humanitarian aid "to relieve the suffering of the four million people who depend on aid in Darfur," where 200,000 people, according to UN estimates, have died from the combined effect of war and famine.
Jones Parry said the council would also look to all Sudanese parties -- government and Darfur rebels -- to cooperate on peacekeeping, political and humanitarian issues.
In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that the resolution "brings very great hope for Darfur," and added: "It is now up to us to make good on that hope."
France's Deputy Ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix stressed that deploying the joint AU-UN force would demand a sustained commitment from the international community and "substantial" financial and personnel resources.
"This is the price to pay so that we can really make a difference on the ground. France is prepared to contribute to that effort," he added.
The resolution authorizes the UN-AU force to take "the necessary action" under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter to protect its personnel, ensure security and freedom of movement for humanitarian workers, prevent attacks and threats against civilians and back implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).
Khartoum signed the peace deal in Nigeria with the main Darfur rebel group more than a year ago, but two of the other negotiating rebel factions refused to endorse the deal.