Thu, Aug 09, 2007 - Page 6 News List

UN receives troop pledges for Darfur peacekeeping force


The UN said it has received pledges of troops and police for a predominantly African peacekeeping force to help end the four-year conflict in Darfur that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, which would meet a key Sudanese demand.

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the new Department of Field Support issued a preliminary list of countries that have offered military and police personnel for the 26,000-strong joint African Union (AU)-UN force. It includes a large number of countries from Africa, several from Asia, one from the Middle East and none from the West.

"We are hitting the target of a predominantly African force and we're very pleased about that," Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute, acting head of the Department of Field Support, said on Tuesday.

The UN Security Council authorized the "hybrid" force a week ago after months of delay in getting agreement from the Sudanese government.

It is the first joint peacekeeping operation by the AU and the UN and will replace the beleaguered 7,000-strong AU force now in Darfur no later than Dec. 31.

Lute, a lawyer and retired US army officer who was formerly on the staff of the US National Security Council, said she was very pleased with the number of infantry battalions pledged at an "extraordinary" meeting last week of potential troop and police contributing countries.

But she said the hybrid force still needs aviation and ground transport units.

The list of potential troop contributors includes Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Bangladesh, Jordan, Malaysia, Nepal and Thailand. The list of countries offering at least 50 police officers includes Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Egypt, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The UN stressed that these countries may or may not be included in the final force, which must be decided by Aug. 30 under the terms of the UN resolution.

Meanwhile, a senior official said that Sudan will have to accept non-African troops in the peacekeeping force for Darfur or face the prospect of new UN sanctions.

Although efforts will be made to ensure that Africa contributes a large percentage of the 26,000-strong mission, the continent does not have enough trained soldiers to fully staff the force and Sudan will be penalized unless it drops objections to non-African participation, Andrew Natsios, the US special envoy for Sudan, said on Tuesday.

US President George W. Bush has made ending the Darfur conflict a US foreign policy priority but the US is reluctant to provide troops itself for the force, given military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, Washington is likely to contribute logistics and transportation to the mission.

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