- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council yesterday authorized a new peacekeeping mission for Darfur, a complex military effort with 26,000 African and U.N. forces under a single command that will be the largest ever attempted by the world body.

The resolution setting up the mission also calls for an immediate cease-fire in the Darfur region of Western Sudan and sets a timetable for the force to be fully deployed by early 2008.

No U.S. troops will participate directly in the mission, but they likely will help move troops and materiel.

“We call in particular on [Sudanese] President [Omar] Bashir to provide maximum cooperation to the new peacekeeping force,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said. “We hope this marks a new chapter in relations.”

The force, a hybrid of African Union soldiers and international logistics and support, was publicly welcomed by Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, who said he was pleased with concessions in the final and painstakingly edited text.

Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem said he spent Sunday with British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry “cleaning” the six-page resolution to address Sudan’s concerns.

Mr. Abdalhaleem said he was particularly pleased that the resolution, in his interpretation, dropped references to human rights provisions declaring the government’s responsibility to protect civilians and threatening sanctions.

Conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan began in 2003 with a rebellion by African tribes against the Arab-led government in Khartoum.

The government is accused of retaliating by deploying militias of Arab nomads known as janjaweed and backing them with air support that bombed entire villages.

The janjaweed have been blamed for massacres and mass rapes, the deaths of 250,000 and for forcing more than 2 million people to flee their homes.

Another 4 million in the area are dependent on international food assistance.

The U.N. is to have its headquarters set up by the end of this month, and triple the number of troops currently on the ground by early in the new year.

Peacekeeping officials stressed that the speed of deployment and the joint command make the mission “unprecedented” in size and scope.

“Between now and the end of the year will be nonstop activities,” said Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno. “We won’t have everything by 60 days but … by the end of the year we want to put more assets on the ground. And come January 1 we have a formal transfer of authority from [the African Union] to the hybrid.”

The new force will replace 7,000 poorly equipped troops from the African Union.

Mr. Guehenno stressed the transition to an AU-U.N. force is imperative because it will combine the resources of the African Union and United Nations under unified command and control.

If Sudan does not cooperate, the U.S. says that it will move for the swift adoption of unspecified unilateral and multilateral measures.

Hundreds of thousands of Darfur’s homeless have found shelter, such as it is, in overcrowded camps on the border with Chad and the Central African Republic, further destabilizing those fragile countries.

Humanitarian aid groups have been trying to protect, feed and care for Darfurians throughout the parched region.

Sudan agreed to host a hybrid AU-U.N. peacekeeping force in November, but has only now accepted language that deploys the mission.

Even with Sudan’s acquiescence, there appears to be considerable differences of interpretation in some of the resolution’s key points.

The United States and several other council members say the text approved yesterday gives the force, to be known as UNAMID, explicit authorization to protect civilians with force.

However, language that would have authorized multilateral sanctions if Khartoum does not cooperate was dropped.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a speech at the United Nations early yesterday, said that if the aerial bombardments and civilian attacks do not stop immediately, “I and others will redouble our efforts to impose further sanctions.”

In Washington yesterday, the House passed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, compelling the Treasury Department to make public the names of U.S. companies that do business with Khartoum to facilitate public boycotts.

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