The United Nations Security Council has authorized a European Union peacekeeping force to help protect civilians in Chad and the Central African Republic from violence in neighboring Sudan. VOA Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, violence in Sudan's troubled Darfur region has displaced more than two million people.
The UN action will send as many as 3,000 European troops to eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic for one year under rules of engagement allowing for the use of military force to improve security, deliver humanitarian aid, and protect civilians be they internally displaced citizens or Sudanese refugees.
International police and military liaison officers will help select and train a new unit of Chadian security to maintain order in refugee camps and towns near the Sudanese border.
At a Security Council meeting on Africa called by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, U.S. President George Bush says it is part of a grand solution to a big problem in Darfur.
"This UN mission is going to help nation and local governments exercise sovereignty over their territory," said President Bush. "It is going to allow workers to deliver humanitarian aid. That makes us feel good. We are spending two billion dollars so far on providing aid, and we want to make sure our aid gets to the people who need help."
The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, welcomed European action to secure the borders. Speaking through a translator, he urged all involved to act without delay and devote all their energies to a successful political dialogue between rebels and the government in Khartoum.
"All the decisions that have been taken and those that will be taken over the upcoming weeks must be effectively implemented in the field in order to prevent any backsliding or any deterioration of the situation, the consequences of which would be felt beyond the Sudanese borders," said President Nguesso.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is working with Khartoum to speed the deployment of a 26,000 - member peacekeeping mission for Darfur itself. The joint United Nations/African Union force would replace nearly 7,000 poorly-supplied AU troops already there.
The Secretary General says the international community must respond more quickly to complement regional efforts to end violence in Darfur that has already killed more than 200,000 people.
"The hybrid operation for Darfur represents an unprecedented partnership between the UN and the African Union," said Ban Ki-moon. "It is an expression of our collective commitment to end the tragedy of Darfur."
Ghanaian President John Kufuor welcomed the action on Sudan but urged the Security Council to show an equal commitment to finding a ceasefire for Somalia.
"In spite of the African Union's initiative in mobilizing troops from among member nations to keep the peace in this highly-volatile area and also the ready offer of some states like Ghana to contribute troops, promised support from partners in the international community provided so far to equip and airlift the troops has been inadequate and slow in coming," said President Kufuor.
So far, only Ethiopia and Uganda have sent forces to Somalia to try and stop factional fighting.
President Kufour says the Security Council must step in to assist Somalia and prepare for the possible deployment of a UN force to replace African troops by next February.