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U.N.-AU Peacekeepers Face Challenges in Darfur

The U.N. Security Council authorized a 26,000-member peacekeeping force in the Darfur region of Sudan. Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations and a Darfur advocate discuss the conflict-ridden region.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Earlier this week, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to dispatch a peacekeeping force to the embattled Darfur region of Sudan. Its purpose: to put down fighting that has led to the deaths of 200,000 and the displacement of 2.5 million people in the past four years.

    Some 26,000 international soldiers are supposed to make up the force, a combination of the 7,000 African Union troops already there as observers, and the rest to come from other nations. Why did Sudan agree to permit the U.N. force to be deployed? And what challenges face the peacekeepers?

    For that, we turn to: Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdalmahmood Mohamad; and Ambassador Larry Rossin, a board member of the Save Darfur Coalition, an advocacy group. Ambassador Rossin is a former U.S. foreign service officer and U.N. official.

    Gentlemen, thank you for being with us. Ambassador Mohamad, to you first. Your government was against such a peacekeeping force for a long time. Why did you change your mind?

  • ABDALMAHMOOD MOHAMAD, U.N. Ambassador, Sudan:

    Our position has been misunderstood. In fact, we are not against the United States, because, after all, we are a member of this world body. And in Sudan, there is one of the largest U.N. force following the agreement of the CPA, comprehensive peace agreement. So, initially, we don't have any difficulty with the U.N. We are a member of the U.N.

    But in Darfur, the situation was different, because the Darfur agreement, which was negotiated by the African Union, did not provide for any involvement by the United Nations. This is why we were very adamant about the African nature of the force, African nature of the operation.

    This took to Addis Abba, where, last year in November, we agreed on a three-phased approach involving peacekeeping, light support package, heavy support package, culminating into a hybrid, and also emphasis on the political process and the humanitarian situation.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Excuse me, I'm going to step in here. So what you're saying is that your government wanted there to be a mix of African forces and other nations. Is your government now then committed to this peacekeeping force?

  • ABDALMAHMOOD MOHAMAD:

    We are very much committed. There is no backtracking at all. We have to stick very carefully to what we agreed upon. Terms of preferences are very clear. The African nature of the force is there; the role of the United Nations is there; the role of the international community in peacekeeping, in peace process, as well as in reconstruction and development is there.

    The problem in the past came when people and the French forces in Sawili tried to backtrack from their commitments, not the Sudan government. And now we are happy that we are speaking the same language.

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