Wednesday, 1 August 2007

UN to send 26,000-strong force to Darfur

By Mark Turner and Jean Eaglesham at the United Nations

Published: July 31 2007 14:54 | Last updated: August 1 2007 02:42

The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed ­on Tuesday to a 26,000-strong joint UN-African Union force for Darfur, as Gordon Brown, the prime minister, hailed the creation of the world’s largest peacekeeping operation during a speech in New York.

The decision follows months of negotiations over the “hybrid” force’s command structure and mandate. Sudan gave its consent earlier this year.

Jamie Balfour-Paul, humanitarian policy adviser for Oxfam, welcomed the decision, but warned that force would not deliver the immediate help people needed because “it will not be in place for many months”. To win agreement, the latest UK-French draft stepped back from earlier threats of new sanctions if the warring parties did not co-operate and deleted the right to the “seizure and disposal” of illegal arms. The force will monitor arms instead.

But it retained references to Chapter 7, under which the UN can authorise the use of force, for self-defence, to ensure the free movement of humanitarian workers and to protect civilians.

Speaking at the UN, Mr Brown called Darfur “the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today”, with 2m displaced and 4m dependent on food aid.

The conflict, between forces backed by the Sudan government and rebel groups, has killed more than 200,000 people since 2003. “The plan for Darfur is to achieve a ceasefire, including an end to aerial bombings of civilians; drive forward peace talks [in Tanzania] and, as peace is established, invest in recovery and reconstruction,” he said.

The resolution calls for a force of up to 19,555 soldiers and 3,772 police, alongside 19 “formed police units” of 140 people each. Command and control will be provided by the UN but day-to-day decisions will be taken by an African general. The aim is for most troops to be African.

In a separate development, the US House of Representatives passed legislation requiring the US Treasury to maintain a list of companies whose dealings directly benefit the regime.

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