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UN Security Council Condemns Attack on Darfur Peacekeepers

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously condemned an attack Monday on a supply convoy of U.N.-African Union peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region. The U.N.'s chief of peacekeeping operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told the Council that a Sudanese commander in the area confirmed that Sudanese military forces were responsible for the attack, a charge the Sudanese ambassador denies. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

In a briefing to the Security Council Wednesday Guéhenno said the convoy's movements were confirmed ahead of time with both the Sudanese government and rebel groups operating in the area. Following the attack on the force, known as UNAMID, he said the Sudanese military official responsible for the area confirmed the fire had come from Sudanese forces.

"After the attack, the UNAMID deputy force commander was telephoned by the Sudanese Armed Forces area commander with responsibility for the area where the incident took place," said Jean-Marie Guéhenno. "The area commander confirmed that it was a Sudanese Armed Forces unit which had fired on the convoy."

Sudan's Ambassador to the U.N., Abdalmahmood Mohamad, vehemently denies his government's involvement.

"I can assure you that Sudan government forces did not at all do that," he said. "We have no relationship whatsoever with that attack. It happened in an area infested with rebel activities. The Justice and Equality elements in West Darfur did that with the massive support, of course these days, that they enjoy from the Chadian government. Sudan is not the beneficiary. Who would benefit from this incident? The rebels and those who are always accusing Sudan are the beneficiaries of such an attack."

The Sudanese ambassador criticized the U.N. for issuing a statement Tuesday placing blame on Sudanese forces, saying the U.N. should have waited for the result of a joint UNAMID-Sudanese investigation of the incident.

Security Council president, Libyan Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi, says members were not yet in agreement about who carried out the attack.

"No, I can assure you that this point is not agreed by all the parties," said Ambassador Ettalhi. "I think they need more investigation."

Monday's attack was the first on the new joint force, which incorporates a previous African Union mission and currently numbers about 9,000 peacekeepers. Obstacles in obtaining heavy equipment - particularly helicopters - has put the deployment of thousands more troops and police far behind schedule.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Guéhenno says the deployment must be sped up. He warns that the security situation in Darfur is dramatically deteriorating. He cites the recent surge in fighting in Eastern Chad and Western Darfur, and the mobilization of some rebel elements as also sending a negative signal regarding the prospects for a political solution to the crisis.