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Viability Of UN-AU Force In Darfur At Risk


Viability of UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur at risk, warns top UN official

The lack of offers from Member States for key ground transport and aviation units and the Sudanese Government's unwillingness so far to approve the presence of non-African units means the hybrid United Nations peacekeeping mission planned for the war-torn Darfur region could fail, a senior UN official warned today.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters that if the joint UN-African Union operation - known as UNAMID - does not have the necessary capacities in critical areas by the start of next year, when it is due to take over from the existing AU mission, it may not be wise to deploy the force.

"It is a terrible dilemma, because on the one hand, you can say that a force, even if it doesn't have all the assets, can make a limited difference for a number of people in Darfur, and that is something in itself which is good," he said. "On the other hand, if that force was to know humiliation in the early stages of its deployment, then it would be very hard to recover from such a humiliation. So it's an extremely difficult decision to make."

Mr. Guéhenno spoke after briefing Security Council members on the latest developments regarding UNAMID, which is aiming to quell the conflict between rebels, Government forces and allied militia that has killed more than 200,000 people and left 2.2 million others homeless since 2003.

He said Council members and UN Secretariat officials remain worried that the mission will not be able to robustly carry out its mandate without the support of both the missing units and those that Sudan has not yet approved.

"If those issues are not addressed in a timely manner, very shortly, it means that the mission in 2008 will not be able to really meet the expectations, [and] that it will not be able to make the difference that the world wants it to make, and that it may become a failure, so this is a very important moment."

He noted that UNAMID still does not have a commitment for a ground transport unit, for 18 transport helicopters to serve as close air support and for six helicopters to be used for light tactical purposes.

"I think it tells a sad story on the commitment to Darfur, frankly. I think there is an immense tragedy that has unfolded in Darfur and now it is up to the countries that care about Darfur to really make the commitment that will make a difference. I think this is the time for concrete action."

Mr. Guéhenno also voiced concern that the Sudanese Government has not clearly signalled its approval of several non-African units in UNAMID, which is to have a predominantly African character.

"The Sudanese Government hasn't said no to any particular unit, but the Sudanese Government hasn't said yes either to any of those units that have been mentioned... We believe that the clock is ticking and that it is important to move forward."

Thailand has offered to provide an infantry battalion, Nepal is willing to contribute a force reserve and sector reserve unit and the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark have offered to send an engineering unit.

"There is no alternative to those units because to prepare for deployment takes time. We know that these units are ready; we know that they have made the preparation. They need now to deploy, and they are ready to deploy."

The Under-Secretary-General stressed that even with the provision of these units, UNAMID will be overwhelmingly African in its composition. The Thai battalion would be one of 18 battalions in the peacekeeping force.

Meanwhile, the Security Council today also heard briefings from the chair of three of its subsidiary bodies, committees set up to examine counter-terrorism issues, monitor Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and promote the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

ENDS

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