BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer welcomed on Thursday a request by the African Union for more logistical help for its troops in Sudan’s Darfur region, saying the alliance would study what it could do.
The under-financed and ill-equipped African Union h
as 7,000 troops and monitors in Darfur, who are the only bulwark against atrocities in the region where ethnic cleansing has driven 2.5 million people from their homes.
NATO has been supplying airlift and training to AU troops and made it clear it would extend that support if an AU request — about which Sudan is apprehensive — was forthcoming.
De Hoop Scheffer said he received a letter this week from AU chief Alpha Oumar Konare requesting an extension of help and added that he had put Konare’s request to a meeting of alliance defence ministers in Brussels.
“We are now moving on with this,” he said after the meeting, adding that NATO logistical support could range from advice on operations to help in setting up an operations centre.
U.N. Security Council members in Addis Ababa on Wednesday to consult with AU officials were told Konare wanted support such as transport and communications from Western nations and had said he wrote a letter to NATO outlining AU needs.
They said Konare stressed he did not want Western soldiers on the ground, who Sudanese officials say they would regard as invaders.
The AU mission is expected to transition to a U.N. force by the end of the year as long as Sudan gives its consent. –Reuter