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UN backs new Darfur peace force

BBC | July 31, 2007

The United Nations Security Council has voted in favour of sending peacekeepers to Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

Up to 26,000 troops and police will make up the world's largest peacekeeping force, under a joint UN and African Union mandate.

The resolution will allow peacekeepers to use force to defend civilians and aid workers in Darfur from any attack.

At least 200,000 people are thought to have died in Darfur and some 2m have fled their homes since 2003.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the mission as "historic and unprecedented".

"You are sending a clear and powerful signal of your commitment to improve the lives of the people of the region, and close this tragic chapter in Sudan's history," he told the Security Council.

Sudan agreement

The resolution was co-sponsored by the UK and France, among others, although its language was toned down after Sudan's UN ambassador described an early draft as "ugly" and "awful".

Emyr Jones Parry, the British ambassador to the UN, warned that the mere act of voting in favour of a peacekeeping force would not save lives in Darfur.

"But today's action raises the prospect of a new start for Darfur," he told the Security Council after the vote.

Despite the unanimous vote, major powers still wielded the threat of sanctions against Sudan if the situation in Darfur does not improve.

The Security Council backed the force in a unanimous vote after negotiations secured crucial Chinese support and eased the concerns of the Sudanese government.

Under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, the new force will be allowed to take "necessary action" in an effort to ensure stability.

But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said at the UN on Tuesday that any continuation of attacks on civilians in Darfur would prompt harsh new sanctions.

Peace talks

The peacekeeping mission, to be known as Unamid - the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur - is expected to cost up to $2 billion (£1.1bn) a year, the Reuters news agency says.

It will come together over the final months of 2007, with the aim of being in charge of operations in Darfur by the end of the year.

However, although Sudan has agreed to the UN's request for troops to enter its territory, reports say the full force is unlikely to be in place until 2008.

Under the terms of the Security Council resolution, the peacekeeping force cannot exceed 19,555 military personnel and 6,432 civilian police.

A joint African Union-UN meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, will try later this week to establish a framework for peace talks between Darfur rebels and the Sudanese government.

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