January 16, 2006
UN's Annan wants US, Europe to consider force in Darfur
The United Nations wants the United States and European countries to help form a tough mobile force that would stop the bloodshed, rape and plunder in Sudan's Darfur region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday.
By Evelyn Leopold
Thu Jan 12, 11:50 PM ET
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations wants the United States and European countries to help form a tough mobile force that would stop the bloodshed, rape and plunder in Sudan's Darfur region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday.
But Annan said that first the Sudan government, the 15-member Security Council and the African Union, which has sent the only foreign troops to Darfur, had to agree.
"We need to get the (Sudan) government to work with us in bringing in an expanded force with troops from outside Africa, because until recently it has maintained that it will only accept African troops," Annan told reporters. "But I think we have gone beyond that now."
Annan spoke after a lunch with Security Council members where Darfur was the main topic.
The Darfur conflict began in February 2003 when rebels launched an uprising against Khartoum, accusing the government of marginalizing the impoverished area. The government in turn armed Arab militias to put down the rebellion, accused of conducting a campaign of rape, looting and murder.
"At this stage, we have started contingency planning to be ready if and when the decision is taken for us to go in," Annan said. "As you know, the killings are going on, the rapes are going on."
Annan said any new force would have to be a mobile one with tactical air support, helicopters and "the ability to respond very quickly."
Asked if that would include rich countries, like the United States and European nations, Annan said, "Those are the countries with the kind of capabilities we will need, so when the time comes, we will be turning to them."
"We will need very sophisticated equipment, logistical support. I will be turning to governments with capacity to join in that peacekeeping operation if we were to be given the mandate," he said.
For more than a year, the Security Council has dealt with the warfare in Sudan's western region. It has imposed an arms embargo, which all sides have violated. It also voted to put an asset freeze and travel ban on belligerents, which has yet to be imposed, and referred the crisis to the International Criminal Court, which is considering prosecutions.
Annan said the African Union's 6,000 soldiers would remain in Darfur for nine to 12 more months if they had enough funds. At the moment, the AU has only enough money to sustain its operation until March, with the U.S. Congress having denied it a further $50 million in aid.
He said the African Union needed money now "and they need it quickly" because any U.N. takeover would take months.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, asked about a U.N. takeover on Tuesday, said, "We have already considered what the options are, and there are no decisions made, but it is very actively under consideration."
"I think it makes it more urgent and more complicated. A lot of people in the AU are reluctant to see the mission shift because it would be seen as an AU failure. We don't see it that way, but you have to go through the consultations," he said.
The AU force, operating in a desert region the size of France, has a mandate to monitor ceasefire violations but limited powers to intervene.
In the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Thursday, the African Union indicated it might hand over the operation to the world body because of a lack of funds.
"The time has come to make a pronouncement on the future of the AU Mission in Darfur and the ways and means to adapt it to the present challenges, including the hand over to the United Nations at the appropriate time," said a report by the AU Peace and Security Council, obtained by Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse in Addis Ababa)
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