U.N. approves Darfur peacekeeping force

The Baltimore Sun

UNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council authorized yesterday an extensive United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur aimed at protecting civilians and aid workers in the violence-racked region of Sudan.

The council voted 15-0 to begin sending a joint U.N.-African Union force of up to 26,000 troops and police to Darfur before the end of the year to quell the violence that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2 million in the past four years.

It will take a year to muster the full force, and the cost will be about $2 billion, said peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno, who added that a substantial number of troops will arrive in Darfur before year's end.

Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called the resolution "historic and unprecedented," and said it would help "improve the lives of the people of the region and close this tragic chapter in Sudan's history."

The resolution is the culmination of a nine-month dispute with the Khartoum government over sending troops to Darfur, where government-linked janjaweed militias have systematically attacked non-Arab ethnic groups since a rebel uprising began there in 2003.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir first agreed to the force in November but has backtracked several times. He finally assented in June, provided that the force was mostly African, and was led by the African Union. The United Nations agreed to the composition of the forces but insisted on retaining command.

The final Security Council resolution narrowed the circumstances under which the troops would be allowed to use force, listing self-protection and aiding workers and civilians. It also pledged that the force would not usurp the responsibilities of the government of Sudan.

In addition, the resolution omitted mention of sanctions if Sudan did not comply.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution includes Washington's three main demands, including the invocation of Chapter VII of the U.N. charter to justify the use of force, giving command and control to the United Nations, and allowing the use of force to protect civilians.

Maggie Farley writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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