From BBC, Sept. 29:
UN ‘must drop’ Darfur peace force
Top UN officials say the world body must abandon efforts to pressure Sudan to accept UN peacekeepers in Darfur. UN Sudan envoy Jan Pronk says the existing African Union force should instead be strengthened.
Sudan has always argued that the AU should remain in charge of peacekeeping in Darfur, rather than the UN.
Outgoing deputy secretary general Mark Malloch Brown has meanwhile said the US and UK’s use of “megaphone diplomacy” is almost “counterproductive” in Sudan.
The cash-strapped and poorly equipped AU force currently stationed in Darfur was meant to leave at the end of the month but its mission was recently prolonged until the year’s end.
The 7,000 AU troops have not been able to stop the conflict, which has worsened in recent months.
The UN Security Council has approved sending a larger, better equipped UN peacekeeping force to protect civilians and guarantee the security of aid workers.
But this was dependent on Sudan’s approval, and Khartoum rejected the resolution.
In an interview with the UK-based Independent newspaper, Mr Malloch Brown said UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush “need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding”.
He said the two leaders’ “megaphone diplomacy” was not “plausible”.
“Sudan doesn’t see a united international community,” Mr Malloch Brown said.
He said this meant Khartoum had come to regard itself as the latest front in the “war on terror” – “the victims of the next crusade after Iraq and Afghanistan”.
Mr Malloch Brown said major Arab and African states, as well as China, should play a greater role in diplomacy over Darfur.
China and Russia, which have strong trade ties to Sudan, have blocked previous attempts to get a strong UN resolution on Darfur.
Mr Pronk has meanwhile told the Associated Press news agency he does not expect Khartoum to accept UN peacekeepers any time soon.
“The international community should instead push for the African Union’s mission to be prolonged and reinforced,” Mr Pronk is quoted as saying.
He said the AU force’s mandate should be extended indefinitely to ensure relief continued to reach Darfur’s refugees.
Mr Pronk is quoted as saying he was certain Khartoum would allow the AU force to stay on in Darfur.
World leaders, he said, must guarantee more funds for the AU so it can carry out necessary peacekeeping work.
“Otherwise, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot each time,” he said.
“Our first priority must be to help the people of Darfur.”
More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003 in violence blamed on rebels and pro-government militia groups.
More than 2 million have been displaced by the fighting.