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Sudan: UN-African Union mission to leave next week

Sudan: UN-African Union mission to leave early next week for Darfur

A joint United Nations-African Union team will head early next week to Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region to assess the needs of the AU’s peacekeeping mission there as well as the possible transition to a UN force, a senior United Nations official said today.

“This mission will be leaving in the next few days and will assemble in Addis in the first part of next week, it will then travel on to Khartoum as a joint team from UN-AU team,” Hédi Annabi, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, told reporters after briefing the Security Council.

The mission will conduct consultations with the Sudanese Government before going to Darfur “to meet with the local authorities, establish contact with them, look into the requirements of AMIS (the AU Mission in Sudan) to enable that force to perform the additional tasks foreseen for AMIS under the Darfur Peace Agreement,” he said.

“The mission will also conduct an assessment of the requirements of the transition to a UN peace operation” should such an operation be established, he added.

While the Government has agreed to the deployment of an assessment team to Darfur, it has not yet agreed to a transition to a UN operation. “I think that is it is understood that we are conducting the assessment mission without prejudice to the decisions that will need to be taken by the various actors involved – the Government of Sudan, the AU and the UN Security Council,” Mr. Annabi said.

“We have tried to make it clear to them that for us, the main purpose of that force would be to assist in the implementation of the provisions of the Darfur agreement,” he noted. “In other words, a peacekeeping operation whose sole purpose would be to assist the parties who have concluded the agreement to bring back peace to that long-suffering region of Sudan.”

In another development, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), James Morris, was slated to arrive in Khartoum today to visit the agency’s largest emergency operation, which was hit recently by a severe shortage of funds to feed some 6.1 million people across Sudan.

After meetings with government ministers in the capital on Saturday, Mr. Morris will fly to South Sudan, where WFP feeds hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese returning home after 21 years of war.

“It is vital that donors come forward now – especially in the light of last year’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the civil war and the recent Darfur Peace Agreement,” Mr. Morris said.

The war displaced more than four million southern Sudanese inside the country and another 600,000 are scattered in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

WFP’s emergency operation in Sudan, with a budget of $746 million, was only half funded and contributions, especially cash, are needed to end ration cuts and cover requirements for the last quarter of 2006 and into 2007.

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