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Security Council Gives UN Control Over Darfur Peacekeepers

The U.N. Security Council has expanded the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Sudan to include Darfur. But deployment of blue-helmeted troops in the region will not take place until the Sudanese government approves.

Twelve Council members voted in favor of a resolution giving the United Nations authority over peacekeeping operations in Darfur. No member voted against, but veto-wielding China and Russia abstained from the vote, along with the Arab representative on the Council, Qatar.

The resolution calls for increasing the size of the current 7,000 strong African Union mission to a force of more than 20,000 military and police personnel.

But the transfer from African Union to United Nations control will not take place until Sudan agrees, and Sudanese diplomats Thursday reaffirmed Khartoum's strong opposition to the force.

Speaking after the vote, Washington's U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, urged Sudan to consent to the deployment.

"Every day we delay only adds to the suffering of the Sudanese people and extends the genocide," said Bolton. "The United States calls on the government of Sudan to comply fully with the terms of Resolution 1706. We expect their full and unconditional cooperation and support for the new U.N. peacekeeping force."

Chinese and Russian representatives on the Council both expressed broad agreement with the goal of the measure, even though both abstained. Speaking through an interpreter, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said his country was concerned more with issues of timing than with the content of the resolution.

"China is in favor of replacing AMIS [the A.U. force] with a U.N operation," he noted. "This is good idea, and a realistic option, and will help improve the situation on ground, and serve the interests of all parties."

But U.S. envoy Bolton said sponsors of the measure pushed ahead, despite Russian and Chinese objections, because, in his words, "it is imperative that we move immediately to implement it fully, to stop the tragic events unfolding in Darfur."

"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," commented Bolton.

Diplomats noted that fighting in Darfur has increased since May, when a peace agreement was signed between the government and one rebel group. Officials in Khartoum have since spoken of sending more than 10,000 troops to the region, raising fears of more violence.

Three-and-a-half years of fighting in Darfur has killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced another two million.