Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 11:22 UK

UN extends Darfur peace mission

Peacekeeper stands guard next to a UN helicopter in north Darfur (9 July)
The UN-AU mission lacks helicopters and has yet to be fully deployed

The UN Security Council has renewed the mandate for peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region for another year just two hours before it was due to expire.

The decision had been complicated by the International Criminal Court's move to indict Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged genocide.

The resolution notes an African Union request for the Council to postpone the ICC's work but does no more than that.

Fourteen of the Council's 15 members voted in favour but the US abstained.

The African Union had asked the UN Security Council to use its power to suspend the ICC's proceedings for a year, saying prosecuting Sudan's president would set back peace in Darfur.

The United States abstained in the vote, because language added to the resolution would send the wrong signal to the Sudanese president
Alejandro Wolff
US deputy ambassador to the UN

Libya and South Africa, backed by Russia and China, wanted to include this in the resolution on renewing the mandate.

But the UK, France, the US and central American countries objected, saying there should be no link between the peacekeeping force and whatever the court might do.

Faced with the prospect that the force might not have its mandate renewed, a compromise was found after much wrangling.

The new resolution takes note of the African Union's position without committing the Security Council to doing anything.

But the US abstained, saying the revised resolution sent out the wrong message.

"The United States abstained in the vote, because language added to the resolution would send the wrong signal to the Sudanese president, Bashir, and undermine efforts to bring him and others to justice," Alejandro Wolff, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, said.

Troops should be allowed to co-operate with selected NGOs such as Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Jaffe, Krefeld, Germany

Sudan's UN Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters it was an "acceptable" text.

The UN estimates five years of conflict in Darfur have left 300,000 people dead and more than two million homeless.

Aid agency Oxfam says about 1,000 people are being displaced every day in the region.

Khartoum says the scale of the violence and suffering has been exaggerated by the West for political reasons.

It denies charges that it organised the Arab Janjaweed militias, accused of widespread atrocities against Darfur's black African population.

On Thursday, two courts sentenced 22 Darfur rebels to death for their involvement in a raid on the capital in May, the first time rebels had reached Khartoum.

Blue plastic bags

Meanwhile, a report has found that the UN-African Union force lacks vital equipment.

Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups' physical destruction
Crimes against humanity:
Forcible transfer
War crimes:
Attacks on civilians in Darfur
Pillaging towns and villages

Only about a third of the intended 26,000 peacekeepers have so far been deployed on the first anniversary of the decision to deploy troops in the region.

Many do not have the equipment they need, according to a report backed by 36 human rights groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

It said some soldiers even have to wear blue plastic bags on their heads because they do not have the standard blue UN helmet.

The report, published by the Save Darfur coalition, says helicopters are vital to the success of the mission but no country has offered a single one of the aircraft.

It says military powers like the US, Britain and France are tied down in wars and other peacekeeping operations.

But it named the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, Spain, Ukraine and India, saying they have more than 70 suitable aircraft needed for the mission.

The report says a militia attack three weeks ago on a UN-AU convoy that left seven peacekeepers dead and 19 wounded underscores the critical importance of helicopters.


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