Sudan is cooperating with peace force plans
WASHINGTON – The Sudanese government, which fought efforts to bring international peacekeepers to the devastated Darfur region, seems to be cooperating as the United Nations-mandated force takes shape, a top U.N. official said Friday.Goods that had been bottled up at Sudanese ports began moving more freely in July, and there have been other signs of cooperation “for the moment,” said Jane Holl Lute, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping worldwide.She declined to speculate on the motivations of the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which the United States and others blame for allowing and encouraging much of the killing of Africans and the destruction of their farms and villages in Darfur.Lute would not go so far as to say she is fully satisfied with Khartoum’s role now, nor confident that cooperation will continue.Her U.N. planners are “able to work,” Lute said.Lute was in Washington to update the White House on progress toward fielding the force of more than 20,000 early next year. The United States is not providing troops but is expected to fund about a quarter of the mission’s projected $2.4 billion annual cost.The U.N. needs additional help with engineering projects including roadbuilding and transporting goods and troops by air. Lute was discussing U.N. hopes for more practical help from the United States, although she said she was not on a lobbying mission.The Sudanese government is adamantly opposed to non-Africans playing any major role in the hybrid U.N.-African Union operation that was authorized by the U.N. Security Council on July 31 and will be made up of 20,000 peacekeepers and 6,000 civilian police.Disagreements over the composition of the mission were a major reason the authorization was delayed for months despite mounting pressure on Khartoum to accept it to help end nearly four years of internal conflict. More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced.Lute predicted the force will be “predominantly African” as the compromise U.N. Security Council resolution required. The Africa Union has said it expects to be able to fill all the peacekeeping slots with Africans, but President Bush’s special envoy for Darfur has said that is unrealistic.A human rights group said Thursday that Sudan’s government continues to violate a U.N. arms embargo in Darfur.Amnesty International’s report also said air raids by Sudanese forces continued in Darfur, with strikes reported by the U.N. in North Darfur in late June. Sudanese forces also used aircraft for several bombing raids on South Darfur in August, near the town of Adila, the group said.