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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 17:04 GMT
Darfur force 'may last 10 years'
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Fasher, Darfur

Gen Martin Luther Agwai at his headquarters in El Fasher, Darfur, 25 January 2008
Gen Agwai does not expect full deployment till the end of the year

The commander of the UN-African Union force in Darfur has said the mission could last for the next 10 years.

Gen Martin Luther Agwai told the BBC that tension with Chad made the conflict more difficult to resolve.

The success of the UN-AU force will depend on what happens both internally in Sudan and externally with the international community, he said.

Peace talks stalled at the end of last year and there is little sign of fresh negotiations starting any time soon.

Fresh fighting

There has been an upsurge of violence in the west of the region, and the Sudanese government launched an offensive at the beginning of February.

A number of villages were bombed by government planes and there were ground attacks by the army and Janjaweed militia.

More than 100 people were killed according to the UN, and thousands more were made homeless, as the army said it wanted to clear the area of rebel fighters.

General Agwai said the length of the UN-AU mission "all depends on the goodwill both internally in Sudan and externally by the international community".

He said tensions between neighbouring Chad and Sudan had turned the conflict into an international issue.

"If things in the west (of Darfur) are stabilised then you will find out that you will only have to narrow your beam and your searchlight into Darfur to find a solution," he said.

"But if they are not, then you will now need to look for a regional solution which will come even longer."

He said the force, which is due to rise to 26,000, would not be fully deployed until the end of this year - if not the beginning of 2009.

The force still only has about 9,000 peacekeepers and soldiers on the ground.



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