Thursday, June 08, 2006 / World / Middle East & Africa - African Union seeks to beef up military force for Darfur / World / Middle East & Africa - African Union seeks to beef up military force for Darfur

By Andrew England in Nairobi
Published: June 7 2006 18:12 | Last updated: June 7 2006 18:12

The African Union on Wednesday told UN Security Council members it wanted to increase the size of its force in the crisis-ridden Darfur region of Sudan by 3,000 troops to 10,000 to implement a peace deal agreed last month.

The 7,000-strong AU force has struggled with a lack of resources and has been un- able to stem the violence in Darfur, which has cost tens of thousands of lives.

The Security Council delegation’s trip to Sudan and Addis Ababa, where the AU has its headquarters, is primarily intended to convince Khartoum to accept a transition from the AU mission to a more robust UN force.

“Before the UN actually takes over, the African Mission in Sudan needs to be reinforced and we will be working together to make sure Amis is reinforced,” Emyr Jones Parry, the UK’s ambassador to the UN, said after a meeting with Alpha Oumar Konare, AU commission chairman. Mr Konare, according to a council member at the meeting, expected more troops from Ghana, Rwanda and Nigeria to make a total of 10,000 soldiers and observers in Darfur, Reuters reported. He also wanted back-up support, such as transport and communications, from Nato countries.

“We are still working out the figures, but we need more troops to help implement the agreement and we now have new responsibilities,” an AU official told the Financial Times on Wednesday. The cash-strapped AU has been reliant on western support to run its mission.

Khartoum has so far resisted moves to transfer the mission to the UN, and the Security Council met Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudanese president, in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.

Council members, who are scheduled to visit Darfur this week, avoided saying whether the government had agreed to a UN deployment.

Three years of fighting between rebels, pro-government Arab militia and government forces has forced some 2m people from their homes in Darfur.

A joint UN-AU assessment team was due to arrive in Sudan on Wednesday and Thursday to assess the requirements needed to deploy a UN force. It is estimated deployment would take place six months after its agreement by all parties.

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