U.N., African Union to Amass Forces for Darfur

The U.N. Security Council endorses a peacekeeping force for Darfur, Sudan. U.N. member states are under pressure to ante up the troops and police for a 26,000 member hybrid force of U.N. peacekeepers and African Union troops. Sudan is under pressure to allow them in the country.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

This morning, we're going to talk about two military forces, one that's being built and another that is leaving the field. In Northern Ireland, British troops are returning to barracks, and we'll have more on that in a moment. Troops may soon arrive in Darfur, Sudan.

The United Nations Security Council has endorsed what could be the largest peacekeeping force in the world for Darfur. The U.N. adds its support to a mission by African nations, and that means U.N. member states must now provide troops and police to make the peacekeeping force count. Sudan is under pressure to allow them in.

Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Four years into what the U.S. has labeled a genocide, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the Security Council for its unanimous vote. He appealed to member states to quickly contribute troops, saying it is an ambitious goal to try to reach as many as 26,000 troops and police to protect civilians targeted in Darfur.

Mr. BAN KI-MOON (Secretary-General, United Nations): We must dedicate ourselves fully to deploying our mission, which will make a clear and positive difference in the lives of the people of Darfur. And they have a right to expect nothing less.

KELEMEN: Sudan had rejected a U.N. force approved last year and only agreed after months of negotiations to this idea of a hybrid mission with the African Union. Ban Ki-moon called on Sudan to be a good faith partner, as did U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

Mr. ZALMAY KHALILZAD (U.S. Ambassador to United Nations): Just as all eyes are on the council to help protect the civilians of Darfur, so, too, are all eyes upon Sudan. And we look to its government to do the right thing and pursue the path of peace.

KELEMEN: While the U.S., Britain and others say they will impose sanctions as Sudan prevents this hybrid from deploring in Darfur, the resolution stripped out any threats of punishment that had some members of Congress upset, including Senator Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin who said diplomats were too flexible.

Senator RUSSELL FEINGOLD (Democrat, Wisconsin): I am very disappointed that the resolution's co-sponsors have succumbed to pressure from the Sudanese government and deleted language which condemned the government for violations of past U.N. resolutions and peace agreements and it removed the threat of sanctions in the event of continued non-compliance.

KELEMEN: He said diplomatic compromise is important but not as important as making sure there are tools to punish and stop atrocities. China's ambassador to the U.N. said his country, a key business partner of Sudan, wanted the resolution to be simple and clear cut. Sudan's ambassador said he, too, was pleased to see his country's concerns taken into consideration. Ambassador Abdul Mahmood Abdul Haleen Mohammad said even the mandates spelled out in the resolution will be more limited than many think.

Mr. ABDUL MAHMOOD ABDUL HALEEN MOHAMMAD (Ambassador, Sudan): So no blank check is there, and the issue is very much carefully calculated in this part.

KELEMEN: But Britain' U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said the resolution gives international peacekeepers the clear authority to protect civilians without getting Sudan's approval to act. And prompted by a journalist's question, he rejected any comparison to Iraq.

Mr. EMYR JONES PARRY (British Ambassador to United Nations): Let's be clear. This is not the use of force to try and enforce an agreement. It is the use of force to actually protect civilians. And if you, my friend, have been to the camps and seen the position of the people there, you wouldn't wonder why we were putting in troops and police. We're putting it in to protect civilians.

KELEMEN: According to the resolution, the U.N. has to set up a headquarters by the end of October. The U.N.'s top peacekeeping officials said he'll be working non-stop to recruit police and troops to beef up the international presence and deter attacks on the millions of civilians displaced in the four-year-old war.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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