America?s top diplomat for Africa says plans are moving ahead to implement the stationing of a joint African Union ? UN peacekeeping force in Sudan?s troubled Darfur region.  US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, in an exclusive Voice of America interview from London, said Wednesday that the latest proposals materialized at a meeting last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia attended by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and leaders of Sudan, the African Union, and governments involved in the negotiations.

?The Addis Ababa agreement was extremely important because it showed a united front for the international community through Kofi Annan?s leadership, and President Konare of the African Union?s leadership really must be commended.  It brought together all of the key stakeholders in trying to end the conflict in Darfur,? she said.

Sudanese officials agreed in principle in Addis Ababa to allow a strengthened AU ? international presence into Darfur to patrol, monitor, and protect residents from attack by government-armed Janjaweed militias.  Secretary Frazer says the authorization means that Khartoum will allow a hybrid force, most likely headed by more than one African commander, to oversee an end to violence after three years of killing and displacement of Darfur civilians.

?It?s feasible to have a jointly appointed Special Representative of the Secretary General, as well as a jointly appointed Force Commander, both of whom can be from Africa, but that this force would come under the command and control of AU with the UN as well, because the AU cannot manage this operation.  It?s a huge operation.  That?s not anything negative about the AU.  It?s just a fact that the UN has a unique organizational capability to manage an operation on this scale,? she said.

Secretary Frazer has been pursuing discussions this week in London with Commonwealth officials and members of Britain?s development community.  In her Voice of America interview, Secretary Frazer spelled out a formula for successfully implementing a Darfur plan.

?The agreement in Addis Ababa said that there would be seventeen thousand troops ? three thousand police.  And so a force of around twenty thousand or so.  We would hope that the composition would be primarily African troops, up to as many as they can provide.  And then you can look outside Africa to your traditional troop contributing countries, like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, you know, Muslim countries that would be acceptable to the government of Sudan,? Frazer noted.

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