By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted to create a United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan’s Darfur region, despite the Khartoum government’s strong opposition.
The vote was 12 in favor, with abstentions from R
ussia, China and Qatar, the only Arab council member.
But the troops will not be deployed until Sudan agrees. The United Nations wants to replace or absorb an African Union force in Darfur, which has only enough money to exist until its mandate expires on Sept. 30 and has been unable to end the humanitarian crisis in the lawless west of the country, which the United States has called a “genocide.”
The resolution calls for up to 22,500 U.N. troops and police officers and an immediate injection of air, engineering and communications support for the 7,000-member African force.
The measure, drafted by Britain and the United States, is designed to allow planning and recruitment of troops for an eventual handover.
“While it is preferable to have unanimity, we are not going to sacrifice the need to take a stronger hand to try and stop the genocide in Sudan just because we can’t get unanimity,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters.
Earlier this week, a top U.N. official warned the Security Council that Darfur was on the brink of a fresh humanitarian disaster threatening massive loss of life.
Since the signing of a fragile peace pact in May between the government and two rebel groups, fighting has only increased. The Sudanese military plans to move 10,500 troops to Darfur to face rebels who have refused to sign, raising fears of a full-scale war.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and 2.5 million forced from their homes in three years of conflict in Darfur. The mainly Arab militia known as Janjaweed, backed by the Sudanese government, are said to be behind the most of the murder, pillaging and rape.
Darfur rebels said on Thursday that Sudanese planes and troops attacked villages in the western region ahead of the Security Council vote.
China, which has close ties to Sudan’s government, said it did not object to a U.N. force but to the timing of the resolution.
“It may trigger further misunderstandings and confrontation from the country directly involved and even cause problems on implementing the comprehensive peace agreement process,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said.
The resolution allows U.N. troops to “use all necessary means” within their capabilities to protect U.N. personnel and facilities and prevent attacks and threats against civilians. — Reuter