The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved sending an expanded peacekeeping force to Sudan's Darfur region. From VOA's New York Bureau, Victoria Cavaliere reports that the resolution follows eight months of negotiations over the make-up and mandate of the force.

The Security Council adopted the resolution Tuesday, just 24 hours after co-sponsors Britain and France circulated a finalized draft - the fourth revision this month.

Under the terms of the resolution, the 7,000-member African Union force already in Darfur will be augmented by as many as 19,000 new international troops and police supplied by the United Nations.

The joint United Nations-African Union force will try to stop four years of fighting between rebel groups and the government-backed janjaweed militia in the Darfur region of western Sudan. The conflict has left more than 200,000 people dead and another two million displaced.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the resolution unprecedented.

"By authorizing the deployment of a hybrid operation for Darfur, you are sending a clear and powerful signal of your commitment to improve the lives of people in the region and close this tragic chapter in Sudan's history," he said.

Western countries have been pushing for the expanded U.N. operation since last November. The latest draft dropped the threat of sanctions against Sudan after objections from the three African countries on the Council, Ghana, South Africa and the Republic of Congo.

China, which holds veto power in the Security Council, also opposed economic penalties.

The resolution keeps in place a mandate that allows the use of force to protect U.N. troops or humanitarian workers. Sudan says it opposed this provision.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, called for an immediate end to attacks on civilians and full compliance by both rebels and the Sudanese government. He then added a warning.

"If Sudan does not comply with the Darfur agreement, and if Sudan does not comply with this resolution, the United States will move for swift adoption of unilateral and multilateral measures," he said.

The first year of the peacekeeping operation will cost about two billion dollars. Member states have been asked to finalize their contributions to the contingent within the next 90 days.

The resolution sets a target date of no later than December 31 to transfer authority from the African Union to the hybrid AU-U.N. force.