KHARTOUM, Sudan – The United Nations and Sudan are discussing the deployment of U.N. military advisers to reinforce the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, in a possible compromise in their standoff over the war-torn region, officials from both sides said Tuesday.
Sudan has fiercely opposed deploying a beefed-up U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, despite resolutions from the Security Council, and has called instead for the African force already there to be strengthened.
But Baha Elkoussy, a U.N. spokesman in Sudan, said the two sides were negotiating over sending U.N. advisers "to facilitate the deployment of the AU."
"There are ongoing discussions to provide the AU force with support, pending a future decision from the U.N. Security Council," he told The Associated Press.
He would not elaborate. But other U.N. officials in Sudan, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the proposal was to send more than 100 U.N. military advisers and dozens of police and civilians to reinforce the AU mission.
The Sudanese government's top official on Darfur, Majzoub al-Khalifa, suggested in an interview with AP that Khartoum was willing to accept such a compromise.
"There is a third way ... why not let the U.N. place its men, command expertise and materiel at the service of the AU mission," Khalifa said.
Elkoussi, of the U.N., said U.N. personnel was ready to be sent to Darfur in the coming weeks "as soon as there is a solid agreement with the (Sudanese) government."
The African Union's 7,000-member force has long been overwhelmed in Darfur, too short-staffed and underequipped to prevent violence from increasing in the vast region of western Sudan, where some 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes since 2003.
The AU plans to increase its peacekeeping force, but the United Nations has been pushing Khartoum to allow the world body to take over the mission and beef up the force to some 20,000 troops. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has refused, calling a U.N. deployment a U.S.-led ploy to recolonize Sudan.