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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

CNN News:

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) -- The U.N. Security Council descends on Sudan for the first time on Monday to try to convince the Khartoum government that a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Darfur was not tantamount to an invasion force.

At the same time, several of the 15 council members intend to tell Sudanese leaders that they have not done enough to protect their own people, regardless of who started the conflict, which has cost tens of thousands of lives.

Sudan signed a peace agreement with the main Darfur rebel faction on May 5. Since then, international efforts have intensified to persuade Khartoum to allow the United Nations to take over peacekeeping in Darfur from 7,000 badly equipped and under-funded African Union troops.

Sudan has agreed to allow a U.N. military planning team to go to Darfur, probably this week, but ruling parties are divided over whether the United Nations should take over from the African Union.

Greek Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, during a stopover in Frankfurt on the flight to Khartoum, said Sudanese leaders felt they needed more time to pull together their government, following a power-sharing agreement last year with former southern rebels.

"We have to be a little bit understanding -- not soft, but understanding," he told Reuters.

China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, agreed, saying a recent council resolution ordering Sudan to allow in the U.N. planning teams disappointed the Arab-dominated Khartoum government.

Instead they had expected to be complimented for their flexibility in negotiations with Darfur rebels, not all of whom have signed the accord.

Some Sudanese fear NATO soldiers among the U.N. force and believe any mandate under enforcement provisions in Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter constitutes an invasion. Chapter 7 is cited in nearly all U.N. peacekeeping operations.

"Those who speak about the U.S. invasion of Iraq should speak about the U.S. invasion of Iraq," special U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, told a recent news conference in Khartoum.

"But when you speak about the United Nations, then please talk about the U.N. as you know it [and not] as if it is coming to invade."

The world body, in addition to organizing humanitarian aid, has a peacekeeping force of 10,000 in southern Sudan.

If there is a force in Darfur, another 10,000 troops and military observers are anticipated, including some of the African Union troops, U.N. officials say. The U.N. mandate is also expected to be tougher than the one in the south but will need Khartoum's agreement.

Since 2003, at least 200,000 people in Darfur have died by bullets, hunger or disease, 2.5 million have been thrown out of their homes, many burned to the ground, and hundreds of women have been raped, mainly by Arab militia after a rebellion broke out. The Sudan military had armed militia although it is no longer certain if they control their allies.

The Security Council's 10-day trip begins Monday and includes Khartoum, southern Sudan, refugee camps in Darfur and Chad, as well as African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The trip ends in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The head of the tour is Emyr Jones Parry, Britain's U.N. ambassador.

Category: Darfur, Sudan.

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