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U.N. Darfur force delayed

Secretary-General Ban cites growing violence and logistical issues.

August 30, 2008|From the Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — Deploying all 26,000 members of a peacekeeping force in Sudan's conflict-wracked Darfur will take many more months because of growing insecurity and logistical difficulties, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report circulated Friday.

Even when the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force is fully deployed, he said, the only way to end the fighting, which has killed more than 200,000 by most estimates and displaced more than 2 million, will be through political talks and a peace agreement.

"If we are to see real progress, decisive political action, which encompasses the whole of Sudan, is needed," Ban said in a report on Darfur to the U.N. Security Council.

The joint force took over peacekeeping duties from a beleaguered African Union force in January. As of July 31, it had a few more than 8,100 military personnel and fewer than 1,900 police on the ground, out of a total of 26,000 that have been authorized.

Nigerian Gen. Martin Agwai, the commander of the force, known as UNAMID, said in June that he expected an increase to 13,000 troops in three or four months, and he expressed optimism that the force could reach its goal of 80% of the full deployment by year's end.

But that was before the most serious attack on the joint force -- a well-organized assault on a patrol on July 8 that left seven peacekeepers dead and 22 wounded. As a result, the force heightened security and temporarily relocated staff members.

Preparations for the deployment of additional troops and police "continue to be hampered by significant logistical challenges and insecurity," Ban said.

Increasing banditry in July also "substantially hindered UNAMID and humanitarian operations" as did aerial attacks and tribal clashes that erupted over land in southern Darfur, he said.

Ban emphasized that even when fully deployed, "UNAMID cannot be a substitute for a political process."

The success of the new AU-U.N. chief mediator, Djibril Yipene Bassole, "will hinge on the will of the parties to resolve their differences through dialogue" as well as international support for his efforts.

The U.N. and AU have tried for months to open new peace talks between Sudan and rebel groups after the failure of a 2005 agreement to stem the violence. Most rebel chiefs are boycotting the negotiations.

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