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Sudan has accepted plan leading to hybrid UN-African Union mission in Darfur: Annan

Sudan has accepted plan leading to hybrid UN-African Union mission in Darfur: Annan

President Omar el-Bashir of Sudan has accepted a three-phased approach leading to the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union (AU) force in the strife-torn Darfur region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

Sudan’s response followed intensive diplomatic activity involving Mr. Annan and his envoy, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, who recently travelled to Khartoum for talks with Mr. el-Bashir and other senior Sudanese government ministers on how to end the widespread suffering in Darfur.

“The President has accepted the three-phased approach as a package, and we will have to move ahead and implement it, push it and… test it,” Mr. Annan said today following a closed-door meeting of the Security Council.

Following consultations, Council President Mutlaq Majed al-Qahtani of Qatar welcomed President el-Bashir’s letter, which reconfirmed his commitment to previous agreements, “in particular to bring about cessation of hostilities, to revitalize the political process and to allow the immediate implementation of the United Nations three-phased support plan to the African Union, culminating in the deployment of a hybrid UN-AU force in Darfur.”

In a press statement, the President said Council members “underlined their willingness to continue their close cooperation with the African Union and to continue to give priority to this issue.”

Mr. Annan told reporters that the UN is in the process of carrying out the first phase, which involves deploying UN police advisers and military officers to Darfur. “We are going to move very quickly on that,” he said, calling this “a way of testing the Government’s willingness to cooperate.”

By a “light support package,” 24 police advisers and 43 staff officers will start to be deployed in the next few days. Under an initial $21 million support package to the AU, agreed upon last month, the UN peacekeeping operation in southern Sudan (UNMIS) will provide 105 military advisers, 33 police officers and 48 civilian staff, as well as equipment.

The overall aim is to deploy a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, made up of 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, compared to AMIS’ current strength of just 7,000 to monitor an area roughly the size of France.

The Secretary-General said the UN would work expeditiously with the Chairman of the AU to name a joint special representative and the commander “who hopefully will bring some fresh ideas” to the operation.

Asked about his level of confidence in President Bashir, Mr. Annan said, “For now, the letter is positive.”

He added that in a situation “when there have been so many disappointments, it is only natural that there will be some doubts and hesitations, and this is a challenge for the Sudanese Government to prove to the international community that it means business.”

Pledging to press ahead, he said: “I hope this time there will not be disappointments.”

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2 million others forced to flee their homes over the past three years because of fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. The UN estimates that 4 million people in Darfur now depend on outside humanitarian aid.