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Security Council Votes to Extend Darfur Peacekeepers


The United Nations Security Council has voted to extend the mandate of peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.

Ambassadors originally were set to meet and vote on the one-year extension by mid-afternoon, New York time. But the meeting was pushed back because the United States was objecting to language in the draft resolution that raised concerns about moves to indict Sudan's president for genocide.

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Security Council has the power under the ICC charter to suspend prosecutions or investigations by the ICC for a year at a time, with indefinite renewal.

Last week, an adviser to the Sudanese president said Sudan cannot guarantee the safety of African Union and United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur if the president is indicted.

The joint U.N.-AU force has about 9.000 soldiers and police, barely a third of the 26,000 personnel that was projected. The force's mandate expires Thursday.

The draft resolution also calls on the government of Sudan, troop contributors, and donors to do everything possible to support an increase in the force so that UNAMID can reach 80 percent of its capacity by the end of 2008.

Darfur activists have accused the international community of failing to give enough support to the mission. A report written by aviation expert Thomas Withington and backed by more than 30 human rights groups says donor nations have failed to supply helicopters and other badly needed equipment to the force.

International experts say more than 200,000 people have died and some 2.5 million displaced from their homes since Darfur rebel groups rose up against the Sudanese government in 2003.

Sudan says Western governments and media have exaggerated the scale of the conflict, and that only 10,000 people have died.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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