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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
'Elders' in landmark Darfur visit
Desmond Tutu
Bishop Tutu will lead the council of elders' mission
Archbishop Desmond Tutu will lead a delegation of influential elder statesmen to Sudan in the latest initiative to bring peace to Darfur.

The "Elders" will travel to Khartoum at the end of the month to meet representatives from all sides.

They will then go to Darfur to talk to local community leaders and some of the displaced people now living in camps.

At least 200,000 people have died and some 2m forced from their homes during the four year conflict.

Lakhdar Brahimi, Jimmy Carter and Graša Machel will be among the influential former world leaders taking part.

We want the suffering to end and we hope to contribute to that
Bishop Desmond Tutu

Speaking of their aims, the Nobel laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town said: "We want community leaders in Darfur to feel that they have been heard by us."

"And to the extent that we could then communicate their aspirations, their longings, particularly the women's groups, we will do so", said Bishop Tutu.

He added: "This is not just a quick trip for The Elders. We want the suffering to end - and we hope to contribute to that."

The group of retired elder statesmen, independent of any government or international organization, came together at the invitation of Nelson Mandela to find ways to tackle some of the world's toughest problems, such as HIV-Aids, poverty and conflict.

Mr Mandela said at the time of the group's inception in July this year, "They don't have careers to build, elections to win and constituencies to please."

That meant the group could speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes, he said.

Helicopters needed

Meanwhile the former commander of the failed UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda has warned the newly-appointed head of the Darfur peacekeepers that he faces "long odds" against success.
Darfur map

In an open letter, the former Canadian general, now senator, Romeo Dallaire, advised Nigerian General Martin Agwai to demand a clear chain of command, a broad mandate, proper resources and rapid deployment - and above all to "watch his back", saying he can anticipate being let down by everyone but will still be blamed for whatever failures occur.

Gen Dallaire told the BBC: "The only thing he (Agwai) can do is try to stop the rot, permit the humanitarians to get in and get those people back. And to do that he does need ultimately the force multipliers (helicopters) from the developed world."

The British minister responsible for African affairs, Mark Malloch-Brown, however told the BBC that Britain will not be sending attack helicopters to Darfur because of objections by the government in Khartoum to the deployment of any Western forces on the front line.

He said his government had been helping a lot: "The AU salaries in the last few months, which had not been paid - that's been paid by the British now."

And he added: "In the case of these Nigerian troops, we're going to airlift them in and we've given them equipment and training support etc."


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