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UN Renews Darfur Peacekeeping Mission


The U.N. Security Council has renewed the mandate of its joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan, for another year. The decision came less than three hours before the mandate was to expire. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer reports the council was united on extending the mission's mandate, but was divided on a different matter.

The normally routine renewal of a peacekeeping force was dragged out until late Thursday night because of an objection from the United States.

The Americans opposed a reference in the text of the resolution that raised concerns about the International Criminal Court's move to indict Sudan's president for atrocities committed in Darfur over the last five years.

Two weeks ago, the court's chief prosecutor asked the tribunal for an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir. It could be a few months before the judges decide whether to grant that warrant.

In the end, the language stayed in the resolution and the United States abstained from the vote. The measure extending the force, known as UNAMID, for 12 more months was adopted with the support of the other 14 members of the Security Council.

U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff made clear that the American abstention was not related to UNAMID, but to the issue of impunity.

"The reasons for our abstention, I made clear in our statement, have to do with one paragraph that would send the wrong signal at a very important time when we are trying to eliminate the climate of impunity to deal with justice and address crimes in Darfur by suggesting there might be a way out. There is no compromise on the issue of justice. The climate of impunity has gone on too long," he said.

The deputy ambassador of Indonesia, Hassan Kleib, expressed the view of many in the council who supported the language, which took note of the African Union's concerns about the charges and its desire to see the Security Council invoke its powers to suspend for one year the investigation or prosecution of Mr. Bashir.

"The Security Council needs to find ways to respond to any possible obstructions of the peace process and the maintenance of international peace and security. We are hopeful that the council will consider positively the requests made by those organizations, in particular the African Union, that is the U.N.'s partner in the political and peacekeeping endeavor in Darfur," he said.

Some western diplomats have said they are willing to discuss the matter of a suspension in the council, because they are confident they have enough votes to make sure a suspension would not pass.

In addition to extending UNAMID's mandate, the resolution also calls on member states to provide needed equipment to the mission, speed up its deployment, and support the peace process in Sudan. Members also reiterated their concerns about the security of humanitarian workers and called for an end to attacks on civilians from all quarters - including aerial bombings.

The mission is mandated to have 26,000 peacekeepers. Currently it has less than half that number. The United Nations hopes to deploy 80 percent of the force by the end of this year.

The U.N. says that at least 200,000 people have died and more than two million have fled their homes since the Darfur conflict began five years ago. Sudan says only 10,000 people have been killed.