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U.N., African Union Unite to End Darfur Violence

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France, Denmark and Indonesia on Wednesday pledged to contribute to a United Nations mission to Darfur, Sudan, in an attempt to end the conflict between pro-government militias and rebels that has killed more than 200,000 people in the last four years.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment of 26,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians in western Sudan on Tuesday. If fully deployed, the hybrid force of U.N. and African Union police and military units would be the world's largest peacekeeping force, draw upon a maximum of 19,555 military troops and 6,432, civilian police.

The resolution states that the U.N. will have the force's headquarters in place by October. U.N. peacekeepers are scheduled to take command of the region from a 7,000-member African Union force by Dec. 31, but the bulk of the units are not expected to arrive until 2008. The ultimate size of the force will depend upon the willingness of U.N. members to contribute troops, police and equipment, with most of the force coming from Africa.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to member states to contribute troops quickly in order to protect civilians in Darfur.

"We must dedicate ourselves fully to deploying our mission, which will make a clear and positive difference in the lives of the people of Darfur," he said. "They have a right to expect nothing less."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said his country would send soldiers to participate in the chain of command, as well as reconstruction and humanitarian efforts. He did not say how many troops France would send.

Denmark's Defense Minister Soeren Gade said his country would send help.

"Beside the fact that there is a need for quite a lot of soldiers, there is a need for logistical staff, people in the headquarters, ships that can ferry equipment on long distances, planes that can move equipment and personnel," he said.

Desra Percaya, spokesman for Indonesia's foreign ministry, said the country was willing to contribute troops but was waiting for details on how many non-African troops are needed.

Last year, Sudan rejected a U.N. force and only agreed to accept the hybrid force spelled out in Tuesday's resolution after months of negotiations.

The conflict in Darfur began in February 2003 when ethnic African tribes rebelled against what they considered decades of discrimination by the Arab-run government. In turn, Sudan's government is accused of arming nomadic, Arab militias to fight the rebels — a charge the government denies. During the hostilities, the U.N. says more than 250,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes.

Approval of the hybrid force for Darfur marks a major turnround for Sudan President Omar al Bashir's government. It long resisted having international forces in western Sudan. Under pressure from Sudan and China — a key Sudanese business partner — Tuesday's resolution stripped out any threats of punishment if Khartoum does not cooperate.

Sudan's envoy, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, said the resolution is more limited than many people think and addressed his country's concerns. "No blank check is there," he said.

But the U.S., Britain and other nations have said they will impose sanctions if Sudan prevents the peacekeepers from carrying out their mission in Darfur.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called on Sudan to cooperate in the quest for peace. "Just as all eyes are on the Council, so, too, are all eyes on Sudan, and we look to the government to do the right thing and pursue the path to peace," Khalilzad said. The U.S. has labeled the violence against ethnic Africans genocide.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said the resolution gives the international peacekeepers the clear authority to protect civilians — without getting Sudan's approval to act, but he rejected any comparison to Iraq.

"Let's be clear. This is not the use of force to try to enforce an agreement. It is the use of force to actually protect civilians. And if you, my friend, had been to the camps and seen the position of the people there, you wouldn't wonder why we're putting in police and troops. We are putting them there to protect civilians," Parry said.

The resolution has one section under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which deals with threats to peace and security and can be militarily enforced.

It authorizes UNAMID to use force to protect and ensure freedom of movement for its own personnel and humanitarian workers, prevent armed attacks and protect civilians in order to support implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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