- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

Sudan agreed yesterday to allow the deployment of U.N. attack helicopters and 3,000 peacekeepers to its Darfur region, but the United States criticized the decision for allowing limits on the number of non-African troops in the U.N. force.

After refusing for months to accept the helicopters, the Sudan government told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that it would do so, expressing “sincere hope” that “implementation of the heavy support package would proceed expeditiously.”

Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol said his country has fulfilled the commitments it made to the United Nations during talks in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in November.

“I can now say that Sudan has given its complete agreement to all that was discussed in Addis Ababa, and as such, the path is open to the next steps, so that we can say that we have overcome the issue of peacekeepers in Darfur,” he said in Khartoum.

But in Washington, the State Department rejected Mr. Akol’s claim that all issues have been resolved, saying Sudan has selected the parts of the U.N. plan it likes — with conditions — and ignored the parts it does not like.

“While it is a partial step forward, it certainly does not meet all the requirements,” said department spokesman Sean McCormack. “There are still elements and other caveats that remain in place.”

Some of the outstanding issues include the command-and-control structure of the hybrid United Nations-African Union (AU) force and the participation of non-African troops in the operation, on which Khartoum wants to put strict limits.

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, who visited Sudan yesterday, said the U.N. Security Council members agreed that most troops in the force, as well as its commander, will be African.

He insisted, however, that the force must have “a single unified chain of command that conforms to U.N. standards and practices.”

For four months, Sudan has resisted the implementation of the U.N. plan, which envisions more than 20,000 peacekeepers in Darfur by its third and final stage. It wants to limit the U.N. role to support and logistics for the AU force because of fears that the U.N. troops would arrest Sudanese officials suspected of war crimes.

There are 7,000 AU troops in Darfur, where experts say more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced, but they have not been able to stop the fighting. The four-year-old conflict began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central government.

Khartoum used Arab militias known as Janjaweed to suppress the rebels. The government denies charges that the militias indiscriminately killed tens of thousands.

“The government of Sudan must disarm the Janjaweed, the Arab militias that we all know could not exist without the Sudanese government’s active support,” Mr. Negroponte said yesterday.

“The denial of visas, the harassment of aid workers [in Darfur] and other measures have created the impression that the government of Sudan is engaged in a deliberate campaign of intimidation,” he said.

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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