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AU Officials Believe Members Will Contribute New Troops for Darfur


African Union officials say they are optimistic that member states will contribute more troops to a new hybrid peacekeeping force for the troubled western Darfur region of Sudan. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa bureau in Nairobi, optimism is largely based on expectations the United Nations will provide all the financial and logistical support for the mission.

Ambassadors to the 53-member, pan-African body gathered at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to discuss the details of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1769.

The Security Council passed the resolution Tuesday, authorizing the deployment of 26,000 U.N. and AU troops and police to Darfur. They will replace 7,000 African troops deployed there since 2004.

During the AU meeting, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Cameroon and Ethiopia pledged to provide troops

The U.N. resolution stresses that the new mission, the largest in the world, should have a predominantly African character and that the majority of troops should come from African countries.

AU spokesman, Geoffrey Mugumya, tells VOA that AU members are responding positively to the call for more African troops in Darfur.

"According to questions from the floor, it seems most member states will be willing to contribute troops [to] the hybrid force," he said.

Mugumya says he believes more countries on the continent are interested in participating because the United Nations, not the under-funded African Union, will bear the cost of carrying the mission, expected to cost $2 billion in the first year.

Since 2004, the African Union has struggled to pay AU troops in Darfur in full and on time.

"It will be the U.N. taking over the funding, so we are not afraid," he added.

Despite a sharp escalation in violence in Darfur in recent weeks, Rwanda and Nigeria, whose forces make up the bulk of the AU force in Darfur, have pledged to send more men. Malawi, which has a battalion in the current force, says it is also considering expanding its participation in the Darfur mission.

Since rebels in Darfur rose up against the Sudanese government in 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed and more than two million others displaced in brutal fighting.

AU peacekeepers have largely failed to curb the violence. It is hoped the larger and more robust hybrid force can bring stability so that humanitarian aid can be delivered safely to millions of people in need throughout the region.

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