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US Asks for UN Control Over Darfur Peacekeeping

The United States is proposing a Security Council resolution that would give the United Nations control over Darfur peacekeeping operaqtions, which are now being handled by the African Union. The Council will take up the matter at a special ministerial level meeting.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice goes to the Security Council Tuesday as part of the U.S. effort to speed up the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan's vast Darfur region.

A number of ministers and high-ranking officials are expected to attend the meeting, including the foreign ministers of the other four permanent Security Council countries.

U.S. diplomats circulated a draft resolution on Darfur Monday, shortly after President Bush called on Sudan to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

The measure would extend the mandate of a U.N. force already operating in southern Sudan to include support for the beleaguered African Union force in Darfur. It also urges the Khartoum government to lift travel restrictions for U.N. and NATO military planners who have until now been denied access to the region.

Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said the transition of control over peacekeeping to the United Nations is a "critical step" in implementing the Darfur peace agreement signed last week in Abuja, Nigeria. He called the draft resolution an effort to accelerate the process.

"It basically is straightforward, to the point, to accelerate planning and assistance both for the transition to a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, as well as to strengthen the hand of African Union force that's deployed there," he said.

Before the Abuja agreement, Sudan had opposed the plan to create a U.N. force in Darfur, saying it would view such a deployment as an invasion

The Abuja agreement had raised hopes that Sudan's government might consider a speedy deployment of U.N. troops in Darfur. U.N. planners have discussed 20,000 troops to take over from the AU mission that is only half that size. But Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry Monday cautioned not to expect the United Nations to take over until the end of this year, at the earliest. In the meantime, he said the best that can be done is to provide increased humanitarian aid.

"The goal must be clear," he said. "In security and humanitarian access and relief, that we do better in Darfur in the coming days, not waiting for the U.N. mission itself to take over."

President Bush Monday called on Congress to approve $225 million in additional relief aid for Darfur. He also asked other donor countries to boost their contributions for aid and rebuilding efforts.

The United States earlier provided more than $1billion in humanitarian assistance and has been a major financial backer of the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.