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UN Security Council Condemns Darfur Attack on AU Base

The U.N. Security Council has condemned an attack on African Union peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region that killed 10 of them, but could not agree on language for a formal statement. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Ghanaian Ambassador Leslie Christian, who chairs the Security Council this month, told reporters Monday evening following the lengthy closed-door meeting that the council was unable to reach an agreement and would continue its consultations on Tuesday.

"The recent attack on AU peacekeepers in Haskanita, South Darfur was condemned and there was a demand that no effort should be spared so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice," said Leslie Christian.

Ambassador Christian declined to say why the council was unable to reach an agreement, but South Africa's envoy, Dumisani Kumalo, told reporters that some members felt strongly rebels were responsible, while others preferred to conduct an investigation before accusing any group.

"The reason we could not come to an agreement was because most of us feel this was a terrorist act," said Dumisani Kumalo. "Every report that we have received points out it was done by rebels. We would have preferred a very specific statement. The others argued that of course they wanted an investigation to find out what happened."

U.N. officials say the small encampment in Haskanita came under heavy attack Friday evening and then again before sunrise on Saturday. The camp was destroyed and at least 10 peacekeepers were killed and several more were injured. A number more went missing, but Sudanese troops have since found several of them.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which the Sudanese government blames on the two main rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Mohamad:

"Factions of SLM and JEM," he said. "It is very clear, the African Union said it, not only the Sudan government… The evidence is there: they were active in (the) area, they did it, the African Union said it, so they are very visible, it is not necessary to reinvent [the] wheel to know it is them."

The attack comes just weeks ahead of peace negotiations scheduled for October 27 in Libya. Ambassador Mohamad said the attack targets the peace process, and should harden everyone's resolve to make the Tripoli meeting a success.

The violence could also complicate plans to deploy a 26,000 - member African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force to Darfur later this year. The president of Senegal says he is considering withdrawing his country's troops from the force, after one of his nation's soldiers was killed in the Haskanita attack.