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Annan seeks President's help, UN Darfur assessment

In call to Sudan’s President, Annan seeks cooperation on UN Darfur assessment

As two United Nations envoys arrived in Khartoum for talks with Sudanese officials in a bid to gain access to Darfur for a UN team assessing conditions for a possible peacekeeping operation there, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today spoke with the country’s President seeking support for the deployment.

During his phone conversation with President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, Mr. Annan “told him he hoped to see the UN assessment mission to be dispatched as soon as possible and sought the cooperation and support of the Sudanese Government to that end,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on 16 May under Chapter VII of the Charter, which allows for enforcement measures, calling for such a team to be deployed within a week. So far, Sudan has not given a green light for the assessment team to deploy.

The Secretary-General, who had previously written to President al-Bashir seeking his support for a stronger UN force to replace the 7,000-memberAU mission (AMIS) deployed in Darfur, made the call as Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi held preliminary meetings today in Khartoum with the Deputy Foreign Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly and a number of parliamentarians, as well as the Head of the African Union in Sudan.

The two UN envoys will be meeting other senior government officials on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Mr. Dujarric, who said “President Bashir told the Secretary-General that after his discussions with Mr. Brahimi he would discuss with the Government this matter and it would be decided upon by the Government shortly.”

During their conversation, Mr. Annan also reiterated to President Bashir the need for all parties to respect the peace agreement reached earlier this month between the Government and one of the rebel groups operating in Darfur, where fighting between the Government, pro-government militias and rebels has killed scores of thousands of people and uprooted 2 million more in the last three years.

Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters in New York today that the deployment of an assessment mission is “very important because it is essential that there is an understanding between the Government of National Unity and the United Nations on what the role of the United Nations would be in Darfur.”

He emphasized that for a UN mission in Darfur to be successful, all parties must comprehend its mandate. “It will not be successful unless we have that understanding,” he cautioned, adding that “explaining what the mission could do, would do, in Darfur, is very important to move forward.”

Asked whether States were prepared to contribute personnel to a UN mission in Darfur, the peacekeeping chief said a number “have expressed a measure of interest” but noted that none would make a commitment in the absence of a Security Council mandate and clear information about the situation on the ground. “No country is going to start spending money preparing its troops for a possible deployment until it knows that this deployment is going to happen for real,” he said.

Mr. Guéhenno also underscored the importance of a comprehensive approach to addressing the Darfur conflict. “The troops, by themselves, cannot be the full answer. There has to be a political process that the troops support,” he said.

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