- Darfur - Sudan - United Nations
The Security Council met Thursday to extend the mandate of UN-African Union troops in Darfur amid last-minute haggling over African concerns about a possible indictment of Sudan's president on genocide charges.
Ahead of the vote, the 15-member body huddled to seal a deal on a British draft resolution that would extend the mandate of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) for one year from Thursday, when it is set to expire.
Diplomats said the US delegation raised 11th-hour objections to compromise language agreed Wednesday that finessed sharp differences over a call to delay a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on whether to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir on genocide charges.
An amendment sought by South Africa and Libya on behalf of the African Union (AU) was not included in the final draft, which instead includes compromise language taking note of a July 21 AU communique that raised concern that any indictment of Beshir might jeopardize the Darfur peace process.
That statement asked the Security Council to defer for one year, renewable, under Article 16 of the Rome statute that created the ICC, any prosecution of Beshir as requested by ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
Moreno-Ocampo has demanded Beshir's arrest for allegedly ordering his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups in Darfur, masterminding murder, torture, pillaging and using rape to commit genocide.
"Having ICC language (in the text) sends the wrong message to a man who has presided over genocide," Richard Grennell, a spokesman for the US mission to the UN, told AFP, referring to Beshir.
The US delegation requested a short break to consult superiors in Washington before bargaining resumed to find consensus, with most members stating their preference for unanimous approval.
Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers conceded that the hard-nosed haggling over the draft language had been complicated by Moreno-Ocampo's request for Beshir's arrest.
He noted that a number of council members wanted a reference to a call for a deferral of any prosecution of Beshir for at least one year so as not to jeopardize the Darfur peace process.
But Sawers stressed the final draft made no mention of that.
"It is likely that we will discuss this (deferral request) again over the coming months," Sawers said. "But the focus now should be on renewing the UNAMID mandate and showing solid council support for what is a very different mission in the field."
"We hope this resolution will get the broadest possible support," Sawers said.
Sudan's UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad said most members were "shocked" by the US attitude. But he had high praise for the British delegation.
"I want to give high marks to the British delegation," he told reporters. "They discussed in good faith with everybody. They were very cooperative. They tried to accommodate the concerns of major parties."
The draft merely cites concerns raised by some council members "regarding potential developments subsequent to" Moreno-Ocampo's arrest request and takes "note of their intention to consider these matters further."
"We must respect the Africans (AU). They play a good role in Sudan (as part of UNAMID). So we have to respect their position," China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters. "Actually the language in that particular paragraph is quite weak."
The text also calls on UN member states "to pledge and contribute the helicopter, aerial reconnaissance, ground transport, engineering and logistical units and other force enablers required."
Only a third of UNAMID's mandated strength of 26,000 personnel have deployed. The mission says it needs 24 transport and attack helicopters to protect civilians adequately.
The draft also stresses the importance of "raising the capability" of those UNAMID battalions formerly deployed by the AU mission in Sudan and other incoming battalions.
The United Nations says that up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since the conflict in Darfur erupted in February 2003. Sudan says 10,000 have been killed.
The war began when African ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime and state-backed Arab militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on Earth.