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UN will keep peacekeepers in Darfur

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Latest update : 2008-07-31

UN Security Council member countries have agreed on a British-drafted resolution to extend the mandate of UN peacekeeping troops in Darfur.The draft also expresses concern over a possible ICC genocide indictment of the Sudanese president.

 

U.N. Security Council members broke a deadlock on Wednesday over a resolution to keep peacekeepers in Darfur and acknowledge worries about a possible genocide indictment of Sudan's president, diplomats said.

 

The 15 council members will vote on the British-drafted resolution on Thursday, council diplomats said. The draft, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, extends the mandate of the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's war-ravaged western Darfur region until July 31, 2009.

 

The diplomats said they expected the resolution to be approved unanimously. Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters it was an "acceptable" text.

 

After weeks of back-room haggling over the wording, Western council members agreed to a compromise text that refers to concerns that African council members, Russia, China and others have about the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor's request for an arrest warrant for Sudan's leader over Darfur.

 

The Western countries, led by Britain, the United States and France, had resisted including any language in the resolution suggesting the council could freeze any ICC moves on President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. They said there was no point mentioning it in a resolution to renew the peacekeepers' mandate.

 

But they struck a compromise after seven council members -- South Africa, Libya, Burkina Faso, China, Russia, Vietnam and Indonesia -- conditioned extending the peacekeeping mandate on referring to their worries about the impact an ICC indictment of Bashir could have on the fragile Darfur peace process.

 

The resolution said the council will keep "in mind concerns raised by members" about ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's recommendation that Bashir be indicted for genocide in Darfur.

 

Moreno-Ocampo accused Bashir of orchestrating a campaign of genocide during the five-year-old conflict that has killed 35,000 people outright and at least 100,000 through starvation and disease, and forced 2.5 million from their homes.

 

Suspend genocide indictment ?

 

The resolution says council members were "taking note of their intention to consider these matters further" -- a reference to an African Union request that the council suspend any indictment of Bashir to avoid harming the peace process.

 

Article 16 of the ICC statute gives the Security Council the power to suspend ICC investigations or prosecutions for a renewable period of one year.

 

But Western diplomats say council members backing an Article 16 suspension lack the votes to get it approved.

 

The draft resolution also urges Khartoum to bring perpetrators of war crimes in Darfur to justice. Last year the ICC indicted two Sudanese men for organizing mass killings in Darfur, but Khartoum has ignored the arrest warrants.

 

The U.N.-AU peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, has been struggling to stabilize the situation in Darfur, an area about the size of France, but only some 9,500 troops and police have been deployed out of a planned force of 26,000, partly due to Khartoum's insistence that most peacekeepers be Africans.

 

Adding to UNAMID's difficulties, troop contributing countries have failed to provide badly needed helicopters and other equipment for the mission.

 

The United Nations hopes to have 80 percent of the full mission deployed by the end of the year. But U.N. peacekeeping officials say it will be difficult to meet this target.

 

Date created : 2008-07-31

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