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UN chief wants extra choppers for Darfur team

Latest update : 2008-01-25

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for extra transport and helicopters for the UN-AU peacekeeping force for Darfur, while waiting for final approval for the deployment from the Sudanese government.

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 7 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon called on Sudan on Wednesday to quickly approve the
makeup of a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur,
but Khartoum faulted donor states for delaying its deployment.
"The situation in Darfur is at a crossroads," Ban said in
his latest monthly report on implementing a July Security
Council resolution authorizing the U.N.-African Union force.
He said peace talks in Libya launched last month presented
a unique opportunity that must be seized by all parties, and
timely deployment of the peacekeeping force was critical.
Ban warned that preparations for the joint UNAMID
peacekeeping force to take over from a hard-pressed AU force at
the end of this year were being hampered by poor security and
because Sudan has yet to approve the composition of the force.
"I am concerned that the security incidents over the past
month and the continuing delays in the deployment of UNAMID
could lead to a further deterioration in the situation on the
ground," he said.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been
accused by the United States and other Western countries of
foot-dragging on the peacekeepers, said he was ready for the
force to be deployed, but funding was an obstacle.
"We have comprehensive agreements with the United Nations.
... All that is needed now is the execution of funding," Bashir
told a news conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki
in South Africa.
A U.N. official said the world body had mechanisms in place
to spend money before a budget is officially approved and it
was already doing so to support the AU force. "What's at issue
are the operational challenges of moving into an area as
inhospitable as Darfur," the official said.
Mbeki also faulted donor countries for not meeting their
commitments on Sudan: "We have to go back to the people who
made the pledges and ask them the question ... why have you not
honored your promises?"
The main shortfall in contributions to the force is
helicopters. No country has offered the 24 transport and attack
helicopters needed to help the planned force of up to 26,000
operate in an area the size of France.
"Without these critical units, the mission will not be able
to implement its mandate," Ban said in the report.
Save Darfur, an umbrella group of 180 international
activist groups, said on Wednesday it had sent letters to the
governments of 17 countries urging them to offer helicopters.
The list includes South Africa, as well as Canada, Poland,
France, Russia, Egypt, Britain, Turkey, India and Ukraine.
One Western diplomat cited two main reasons why potential
providers of helicopters had not come forward: some were
already overstretched by military deployments overseas; others
were concerned about whether the untested command and control
structure of the U.N.-AU force would work properly.
Ban said the United Nations and the African Union had
presented a list of proposed troop contributors to Khartoum on
Oct. 2, but had yet to hear back.
The U.N. resolution said the force would be "predominantly"
African and Khartoum has been resisting most nonAfrican
participation. Washington has said it will consider further
sanctions if Sudan continues its delaying tactics.
Ban said the current package of troop contributors was
backed by the head of the AU and "any diminishment of its
capacity would put the mission at risk."
"I look forward to the government of Sudan's positive
response on UNAMID's force composition because it is now
critical to move toward deployment without further delay."
Peace efforts suffered a setback last month after several
rebel groups boycotted peace talks in Libya. "It was very
distressing that some of them decided to stay away from the
recent peace conference held in Libya," Mbeki said.
The bloodshed in Darfur has killed 200,000 people in 4 1/2
years, by international estimates. Khartoum says only 9,000
have died since rebels took up arms against the government in
2003 and accuses critics of exaggerating the crisis.
Accused by critics of backing the Janjaweed militias blamed
for much of the violence, the Sudanese government has also been
criticized by U.N. aid officials and independent charities for
imposing bureaucratic obstacles to humanitarian work.
The United Nations said on Wednesday regional authorities
in south Darfur had expelled the chief U.N. humanitarian
official there, accusing him of unspecified rule violations.

Date created : 2007-11-08