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Regional News Wed, 28 Nov 2007

Sudanese obstacles threaten Darfur peacekeeping mission - UN

Accra, Nov. 28, GNA - The full and rapid deployment of the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is in jeopardy because of a series of objections and obstacles raised by the Sudanese Government and the lack of offers for crucial force units, senior United Nations officials warned the Security Council on Tuesday. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Gu=E9henno told an open debate on the war-torn region of western Sudan in New York that with five weeks remaining before UNAMID was due to accept the transfer of authority from the existing AU peace operation, critical gaps in mobility capabilities remained.

A statement from the UN Information Centre in Accra quoted him as saying the mission was short of one heavy and one medium transport unit, three military utility aviation units and one light helicopter unit, while an earlier pledge for one reconnaissance company had been withdrawn.

"If no appropriate offers for these missing units are identified by early 2008, it may become necessary to revert to the Council to consider options to mitigate the lack of air mobility. "This may require an increase in troops. But more troops will not 'replace' military aviation and they would also require more logistic support, more land, more water, and would likely not appear in Darfur until late 2008.

"Another sub-optimal last-resort measure would be to 'borrow' these capabilities from other missions." He said despite sincere efforts by the UN to address Sudanese concerns about the composition of the force, which is supposed to be predominantly African, the Government is yet to approve units from Thailand, Nepal and Scandinavia.

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The Government has also not facilitated the acquisition of land and flight operations rights for UN aircraft, impeding the ability of UNAMID to carry out its mandate, while some of its proposals for the status of forces agreement with the UN "would make it impossible for the mission to operate".

Mr Gu=E9henno said unless these sorts of problems are resolved, the international community - which agreed at the end of July to authorize the deployment of UNAMID to quell four years of fighting and suffering that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced at least 2.2 million others - may soon face a hard choice.

"Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations, and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?" Speaking to reporters later, he said: "If there is a humiliation, it will reverberate beyond Darfur to the whole idea of UN peacekeeping." He noted that during a recent trip to China many countries in that region made clear that they have an increased confidence in UN missions after problems in the 1990s in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. "If we had one major setback, that confidence could be shattered. And then all the other countries in which peacekeeping has made a huge difference - I think of Liberia, I think of Sierra Leone, I think of Haiti today - would be at risk of not having this option of a UN peacekeeping operation when needed because the credibility of peacekeeping would have been once again challenged.

Source: GNA
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