Sunday, December 31, 2006
First U.N. advisers headed to Darfur in daysKHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- The first group of more than 175 U.N. advisers and staff supporting peacekeepers in Darfur will deploy within the next few days, according to a joint statement issued Wednesday by U.N. and African Union offices in Sudan.
The United Nations and African Union offices in Sudan provided the Sudanese government Wednesday with a list of the names of the 43 U.N. military staff officers and 24 police advisers making up the first U.N. group to be deployed to Darfur, the statement said. That action opens the way for sending the personnel to the troubled area of western Sudan.
The Sudanese government confirmed that it was permitting the first U.N. experts to head to Darfur. But the numbers it gave were lower than those mentioned by the U.N. statement.
Sadeq Al-Magli, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said that 18 military experts and 20 policemen would soon head to Al Fasher, capital of North Darfur. The discrepancy could not be accounted for immediately.
Most of the experts come from African and Asian countries, Al-Magli said.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said in a recent letter to outgoing U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Sudan was ready immediately to implement agreements endorsing a three-step U.N. plan to strengthen the beleaguered 7,000-strong African Union force in the vast western region of Sudan. The letter was circulated Tuesday at the United Nations.
According to the statement released Wednesday, U.N. staff officers and police advisers will wear their national uniforms with blue U.N. berets and an African Union Mission in Sudan armband.
The statement noted that in addition to the personnel, the United Nations is to provide a further $21 million in equipment to African Union peacekeepers. Computers and water tankers are included in the equipment.
Fighting began in Darfur in February 2003 when rebels from African tribes took up arms against Sudan's Arab-dominated government.
The violence has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million. The government is accused of unleashing Arab tribal militias known as the janjaweed that are blamed for most of the atrocities. The government denies backing the militias.
Representatives of the U.N. and African Union missions in Sudan are to hold their next meeting with Sudanese officials January 10.
Re-posted from CNN.com.