updated 9/25/2007 10:47:29 PM ET 2007-09-26T02:47:29

The United Nations Security Council authorized on Tuesday a European Union force and U.N. police to help protect civilians in Chad and the Central African Republic caught in the spillover from the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

It authorizes the EU, under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which allows the use of military force, to deploy a force for one year in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic. The force will help improve security, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, and “contribute to protecting civilians in danger, particularly refugees and displaced persons.”

At an open Security Council meeting on peace in Africa Tuesday, President Bush strongly supported the resolution and the mission.

“It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a practical solution to a big problem. It’s a part of a grand solution,” said Bush who was at U.N. headquarters in New York to attend the General Assembly. “This U.N. mission’s going to help national and local governments exercise sovereignty over their territory. It’s going to allow workers to deliver humanitarian aid.”

The 4½-year conflict in Darfur has left more than 200,000 dead and has displaced 2.5 million. It has spilled over Sudan’s border into the northeast Central African Republic and eastern Chad, leading to a serious deterioration of security in the region.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said last month that there are now 400,000 refugees and internally displaced people in Chad, and more than 200,000 displaced people in the northern Central African Republic. Both countries are impoverished.

The resolution expresses deep concern “at the activities of armed groups and other attacks in eastern Chad, the northeastern Central African Republic and western Sudan which threaten the security of the civilian population, the conduct of humanitarian operations in those areas and the stability of those countries, and which result in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

Reluctance initially
Chadian President Idriss Deby opposed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s original proposal for deployment of a U.N. military force but agreed to an EU force after meeting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in June.

With Deby’s approval and a green light from the Security Council late last month that it would approve the deployment, the EU has started planning for a possible 3,000-strong peacekeeping mission.

Italy’s President Romano Prodi and Belgium’s Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt both pledged support for the EU force.

The draft resolution calls for a maximum of 300 U.N. international police and 50 military liaison officers as well as “an appropriate number of civilian personnel.”

It will select and train a new unit of Chad’s police and gendarmerie to maintain law and order in refugee camps, key towns and areas with large numbers of displaced civilians in eastern Chad.

The year-long authorization for both the EU and the U.N. operations would take effect on the date the EU declares “its initial operating capability,” in consultation with the secretary-general.

The resolution asks the secretary-general to report in six months on arrangements for following up the EU operation, “including a possible United Nations operation.”

The U.N. is already pushing for the speedy deployment of a 26,000-strong joint African Union-U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur to replace a beleaguered 6,000-man AU force.

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