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Sudan accepts joint peacekeepers in Darfur

Sudan on Tuesday agreed to a combined United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force to be deployed in its troubled Darfur region.
/ Source: Reuters

Sudan on Tuesday agreed to a combined United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force to be deployed in its troubled Darfur region.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit said Khartoum agreed to a "hybrid" force of between 17,000 and 19,000 troops after "clarifications" from AU and UN officials.

"The government of Sudan accepted the joint proposal on the hybrid operation," Djinnit said, reading a statement after two days of meetings in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.

"Agreement was also reached in particular on specific recommendations about the mandate and structure of the operation and details on its various components and tasks."

He appealed to the U.N. Security Council to authorize the deployment of the hybrid force without delay.

Djinnit said Sudan had raised the issue of an "exit strategy" for the peacekeepers, and all parties agreed the operation would be periodically reviewed. He did not say how often.

The majority of the troops would be African, he added.

The head of Sudan's delegation, Mutrif Siddig, confirmed that the government had agreed to both options proposed by the AU and United Nations: either 17,605 troops with rapid-reaction units or 19,555 troops without the rapid response facility.

In addition, more than 3,000 police officers would help provide security. Sudan had already agreed to the deployment of core police units to Darfur.

"The government and all the parties are open to both alternatives," Siddig told Reuters from Addis Ababa. "We do not have any problem with troop numbers."

"We agreed that priority should be given to finding troops from Africa," he explained, but added: "If there are not enough contributions from Africa, then troops can be brought in from elsewhere."

Siddig, a senior foreign ministry official, also said Sudan agreed to the mandate outlined by the AU and United Nations.

However, command and control structures would be under the African Union.

"Command and control structures should be under the AU with the support of the United Nations," he said.

The force command structure had been a sticking point between all sides.

Non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in early 2003, accusing the government of not heeding their plight in the remote, arid region. Khartoum mobilized Arab militia, known locally as Janjaweed, to quell the revolt.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million more have been expelled from their homes. In the past year, rebel groups have been fighting each other.

Sudan says 9,000 people have died.