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UN Report Cites Sudanese 'Interference' With Peacekeepers

Jordanian peacekeepers of the United Nations African Mission In Darfur, UNAMID, patrol the refugee camp of Abou Shouk at the outskirts of the Darfur town of el Fasher, Sudan, April 14, 2010 (File Photo)

Sudan’s government has interfered 23 times with the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission, or UNAMID, in recent months, according to a United Nations Security Council briefing Wednesday. Rebels or civilians were responsible for three other instances of interference.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice spoke to reporters after the briefing and said, "We have been frustrated and dismayed by repeated instances of UNAMID being denied access and its freedom of movement restricted."

Rice said that UNAMID, which is the largest peacekeeping operation in Africa, should not have to negotiate access with Sudan’s government in order to fulfill its mission to "robustly" protect civilians.

"The government has an obligation, and in fact has made a commitment, to allow freedom of movement, this is something the U.N. and many concerned governments repeatedly discuss with the government of Sudan," said Rice.

UNAMID’s 20,000 military and civilian members are in Sudan to protect civilians from the fighting between government forces and rebels.

Also on Wednesday, Sudan’s foreign minister, Ali Ahmed Karti, was in Washington for meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In a speech to a private group, he called for normalizing relations between Sudan and the U.S., and said relations should not be, in his words, "held hostage" by the matter of Darfur. The U.S. has offered Sudan incentives if it makes progress in Darfur and accepts the results of a referendum on independence for Southern Sudan due in early February.

The vote so far shows strong support for independence.