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Sudan Accepts Darfur Resolution, Rebels Have Their Doubts


Sudan's government says it will abide by a Security Council resolution that paves the way for the United Nations and the African Union to deploy 26,000 peacekeepers to the region. Yet as Nick Wadhams reports from our East Africa bureau in Nairobi, the dominant rebel group in Darfur has its doubts about Khartoum's commitment.

The Security Council resolution is the latest effort to bring peace to Sudan's Darfur region, where officials estimate that more than 200,000 people have been killed in four years of fighting.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol announced his government's formal acceptance of Security Council resolution 1769. The final version is significantly watered down because, for one, it does not threaten sanctions if Sudan refuses to comply.

The main Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, says it is encouraged by the tough language in the resolution. But SLM spokesman Yahia Bolad says his group will reserve final judgment until it sees whether the peacekeepers are able to enforce the agreement.

Bolad tells VOA that another major concern is that much of the land abandoned by civilians in Darfur has been occupied by Arabs backed by the Sudanese government. He says the Sudan Liberation Movement will start thinking about a strong political agreement for Darfur only when attacks cease and the issue of resettlement has been solved.

"We want to see our people to be protected, we want to see aerial bombardment to stop, after that we can look for the political process, and we know that the political process at the end of the day is the way to solve these problems," he said.

Those comments suggest that the Sudan Liberation Movement is still determined to boycott talks set for later this week in Arusha, Tanzania on laying the groundwork for a new peace process in Darfur.

Earlier, Sudan Liberation Movement leader Abdelwahid al-Nur told the English language Sudan Tribune that he would not attend the talks unless the violence in Darfur stops.

Despite its acceptance, Sudan's government is warning that the peacekeepers must not feel they can do whatever they want. The government has ignored previous Security Council resolutions. The current resolution does not allow the international force to confront militiamen or to confiscate weapons that have fallen into the wrong hands. The force's mandate will be to protect civilians.

Last year, Sudan rejected a Security Council resolution that would have deployed 22,000 U.N. troops to Darfur with a robust mandate. The 7,000 AU peacekeepers now in place are under-funded and have been unable to stem the violence.

The resolution that passed the Security Council on Tuesday was weakened as a result of pressure from some of Sudan's allies on the Council, including China.