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Sudan Endorses Joint AU-UN Peacekeeping Force in Darfur


Sudan's president has told the United Nations he endorses a plan for a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, President Omar al-Bashir said Sudan is ready "to start immediately" with implementing a Darfur peace plan endorsed by Khartoum and the African Union last month.

The letter was made public Tuesday, several days after Mr. Annan asked the Sudanese president to clarify his position on the proposed A.U-U.N. force. Security Council diplomats said the letter sounds promising but noted that Sudan has previously refused to approve any large-scale U.N. deployment to Darfur.

In the letter, Mr. Bashir also sidestepped questions about the size and command of the joint force.

The peace plan calls for a three-stage operation that would start with the deployment of a couple hundred U.N. military advisers to the region. The advisers would join an existing African Union force that has been unable to stop the rampant violence in Darfur.

Rebel groups there began fighting the Sudanese government nearly four years ago. The increasingly chaotic violence has killed an estimated 200,000 people, and displaced more than two million others from their homes.

Mr. Bashir has flatly rejected a Security Council resolution that authorized sending 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to the region. Mr. Bashir's letter to the U.N. was dated December 23rd and made public Tuesday.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.