The U.N. Security Council has authorized a 10,000 strong peacekeeping force for southern Sudan. The Council took no action on the separate issue of ethnic cleansing in Sudan's western Darfur region.


The vote on the U.S. sponsored resolution was unanimous. But the measure adopted by the Council Thursday was far less than the comprehensive resolution that had been stalled for more than a month.


The draft finally approved authorizes a 10,000 member peacekeeping force to monitor the January accord that ended a 21-year civil war in the south. But it also reflects the deadlock over what to do about Darfur in the west.


Language addressing two other key issues, sanctions against perpetrators of war crimes and a venue for their prosecution, has been deleted. Those issues will be taken up later.


After the vote, U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno read a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan applauding the action but urging the Council to break their deadlock on Darfur, where U.N. officials estimate thousands of people are dying each month.


"It is clear present state of affairs in Darfur is unacceptable," said Mr. Guehenno.  "Violence and destruction must stop. Impunity must end. If security does not improve, killing and rapes will continue. We cannot allow this catastrophic scenario."


Thursday's vote came after France backed away from an earlier demand for a vote on a measure naming the International Criminal Court at The Hague as the venue for prosecuting Darfur war crimes cases. The United States opposes the court because it might also be used for bringing politically motivated charges against Americans, and has held out the possibility it might veto the measure.


French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he had accepted a postponement in the interest of consensus, but said a majority of Council members remain committed to the ICC.


"A few months ago, the Security Council decided to set up an inquiry commission and the American delegation was pushing for that, and this commission concluded the crimes committed by Janjaweed are crimes against humanity , and crimes by rebels are war crimes, and the inquiry commission recommendation is to send the situation in Sudan to the ICC," he said.


Deputy U.S. Ambassador Stuart Holliday refused to comment on whether the United States might use its veto to block the ICC resolution. Washington favors bringing war crimes suspects before an Africa-based tribunal.


But Ambassador Holliday pledged to work toward a solution that would ensure that perpetrators of Darfur's ethnic cleansing are brought to justice.


"We remain very concerned and disturbed by the situation in Darfur in the western part of the country, and will continue working with our council colleagues to address that important question in the days ahead," said Mr. Holiday.


European diplomats said a vote on the ICC resolution, and on a U.S.-drafted sanctions measure, could come as early as next Wednesday.