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Timetable For Darfur Peacekeeping Force Outlined

Darfur: Ban Outlines Timetable Towards Full Deployment Of Peacekeeping Force

New York, Oct 7 2008 4:10PM

The “severely stretched” United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, which has struggled to find enough countries willing to supply troops and equipment, should now reach two-thirds of its full deployment by the end of this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Some 85 per cent of the 26,000 troops and police officers expected when the peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, is at full capacity should then be in place by next March, “despite the many obstacles,” Mr. Ban told journalists at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

Only about 10,000 uniformed personnel are currently deployed in Darfur, an impoverished, arid region in western Sudan that has been the centre of fierce fighting and widespread humanitarian suffering since 2003.

Senior UN officials have repeatedly called on countries to provide the necessary blue helmets and equipment, particularly helicopters, so that UNAMID can carry out its mandate.

Mr. Ban said today that the first Egyptian and Ethiopian battalions will be deployed by the end of this month and he has spoken with the leaders of Thailand and Ukraine about contributing troops and equipment.

“Yesterday I spoke with the Prime Minister of Thailand [Somchai Wongsawat] with a view toward securing the deployment of a Thai battalion in Darfur,” he said. “As you know, the Government of Sudan has approved the deployment of both Thai and Nepalese military units. It was a very positive conversation and I am assured that the Thai Cabinet will move ahead as soon as possible."

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Turning to Ukraine, the Secretary-General said he explored the possibility of deploying military helicopters and personnel during his meeting with President Viktor Yushchenko on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s high-level debate last month.

“We have had subsequent discussions with the Ukrainian Defence Minister [Yuriy Yekhanurov] in New York. These efforts are continuing. I expect the Government in Kiev to act soon.”

Mr. Ban warned that the situation in Darfur, where rebels are fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen, continues to deteriorate.

“We are seeing increasing attacks on UN and international [aid] staff. The UNAMID mission is severely stretched.”

Yesterday a Nigerian soldier serving with UNAMID was killed following an ambush of a mission patrol in South Darfur state by 40 to 60 unknown attackers wearing civilian clothes. He was the ninth UN soldier to die in Darfur in the past three months.

The blue helmet, who was taking part in a nine-vehicle, 50-strong patrol between Nyala and Khor Abeche when the ambush occurred near Menawashei, died during his medical evacuation to Nyala.

The mission reported that UNAMID forces later captured one of the attackers and handed him to Sudanese Government police in Nyala, which is the South Darfur state capital.

UNAMID said it would investigate the cause and circumstances of the attack and added it was stepping up its patrols in the area near Menawashei.

An estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur over the past five years as a result of direct combat, disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, while another 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes.

ENDS

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