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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 December 2006, 02:05 GMT
Darfur force expansion on agenda
Darfur refugees in Djabal Refugee Camp in Chad
About 2.5 million people in Darfur have been made homeless
Sudan says its officials will meet next week to put into effect the first phase of expanding the current peacekeeping force in Darfur to take in UN troops.

A Sudanese government spokesman told the BBC the expansion agreement showed his country's commitment to peace.

He said the size of any force remained to be settled.

More than 300,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in conflict in the troubled western region in the past three years.

Map

There are also fears that the fighting is destabilising Chad, home to hundreds of thousands of refugees, where there has been an upsurge in violence.

Under a three-phase plan, the existing peacekeeping force of 7,000 African Union (AU) soldiers would be augmented by dozens of UN experts and then expanded into a hybrid force, with UN troops providing logistical and other support.

Sudan's change of heart on its previous opposition to UN participation follows international threats of trade sanctions and of a ban on aircraft movements over Darfur, to stop bombing raids by government forces.

However, the UN says it is still waiting for written confirmation from Sudan that its troops will be included in the peacekeeping force.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has until now strongly opposed any involvement of the UN in the western region.




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