Sudan Hails Darfur Peacekeeping Mission as Diplomatic Victory

Sudan hailed as a diplomatic victory a Security Council resolution to send some 26,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, saying Wednesday it would implement its part of the deal because the new U.N. text respects Sudanese sovereignty.

President Omar al-Bashir had resisted for months a push to send U.N. peacekeepers to the western Darfur region, where over 200,000 people have died and 2,5 million been chased from their homes in four years of fighting.

But Sudan agreed in June to a compromise deal for the African Union to deploy jointly with the U.N. in a "hybrid force" to end the violence, which is what the U.N. resolution passed Tuesday provides for.

"The Sudanese government is committed to implementing its part of the resolution," Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters on Wednesday.

Acceptance of the new mission marked a major turnaround for Khartoum. Al-Bashir said last year he viewed U.N. blue helmets as a neocolonial force and would personally lead the resistance against them if they deployed.

The U.N. had passed a previous resolution last August to send peacekeepers in Darfur, but text had been conditioned to Khartoum's approval and was shelved.

Tuesday's resolution passed by the U.N. won Khartoum's praise after it was watered down to drop the threat of sanctions against Sudan if it fails to accept the force and an authorization for the new force to seize or collect arms. The changes were made in negotiations between Security Council members to avoid a veto by China, Sudan's top diplomatic ally.

"This resolution is a result of long and tedious consultations involving lots of people and the Sudanese government," Akol said. "This is the first time a country involved in the resolution takes part in the consultations."

The Sudanese government denies accusations that forces it controls are largely responsible for the violence against civilians in Darfur, but the International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants against a Sudanese Cabinet Minister and a pro-government militia chief for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

The force will include up to 19,555 military personnel, including 360 military observers and liaison officers, a civilian component including up to 3,772 international police, and 19 special police units with up to 2,660 officers. The U.N. said the force, called UNAMID, will have "a predominantly African character," as Sudan demanded. African troops already in Darfur will stay there.

"The resolution has responded to many of the Sudanese reservations and concerns," Akol said.

He said Sudan would prefer that the mission's name be changed to reflect the African component's pre-eminence in the force. He said the initials for the AU should precede those of the U.N. in the mission's acronym.

The new peacekeeping force will take over from the beleaguered 7,000-strong AU force now in Darfur no later than Dec. 31, the resolution says.

But ultimate troop strength depends on the willingness of U.N. member states to contribute troops, police, logistics and sophisticated military hardware.