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Gaps In New UN Force In Darfur Must Be Filled

Outstanding gaps in new UN force in Darfur must be filled - Ban Ki-moon

In a race against time, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is appealing to United Nations Member States to speed up delivery of vital units and equipment for the newly launched but critically under-strength joint UN-African Union force (UNAMID) set up to stem the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

Four months into the implementation of the Security Council resolution mandating a force of 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police, UNAMID - which formally took over from the existing AU operation on Monday - still only has some 9,000 uniformed personnel on the ground and lacks "critical aviation capabilities," Mr. Ban says in a report to the 15-member body.

"Furthermore, the Government does not appear to have fully embraced the fact that a robust and effective UNAMID will contribute towards Darfur's long-term stability," he writes of the vast region, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes since fighting began in 2003 between Government forces and rebel groups.

Meanwhile, continuing rebel activity, including attacks on Government forces and oil installations and assaults on and hijackings of humanitarian vehicles, all underscore the uncertain circumstances under which UNAMID is being launched, he adds in the report, which is dated 24 December and was released today.

Despite these challenges UNAMID will make every effort to make maximum use of its current limited resources and personnel, including a "more forward-leaning posture," increased patrolling, and enhanced outreach to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and humanitarian activities.

"Nevertheless, this change in approach cannot replace the thousands of troops and police officers and vital equipment which will not arrive until later in 2008. This is a particularly worrying scenario given the ongoing insecurity in Darfur, and the very strong possibility that the Mission will be tested by spoilers in the early stages," Mr. Ban says.

"In this context, and because time is against us, I reiterate my appeal to Member States for support in accelerating the deployment of selected units and filling outstanding gaps in force composition," he adds, stressing that the international community "cannot afford the risks" associated with the deployment of a weak force.

Mr. Ban notes that the effective functioning of UNAMID will also be highly dependent on the ability of the UN and AU to work with the Government to rapidly resolve the complex technical issues related to its deployment.

"It is paramount that all parties commit themselves to an end to violence and a cessation of hostilities," he writes.

While UNAMID should help improve stability once fully deployed, "it is only through political dialogue and inclusive consultations that the parties will be able to reach a viable, sustainable and comprehensive to the crisis," he concludes, adding that while merging the number of rebel movements into two coalitions is a step forward, "there is still an enormous amount of ground to cover."

Efforts on the political front are being led by the UN and AU Special Envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, who have been pursuing a political settlement to the crisis through negotiations aimed at a achieving a peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Darfurian movements.


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