Sudan agrees on UN/AU Darfur assessment mission
Sudan has agreed to allow an African Union-UN assessment mission into the country ahead of a possible deployment of UN troops to enforce a peace deal in war-torn Darfur, a UN diplomat said on Thursday.
Speaking after a meeting with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the UN's Lakhdar Brahimi said: "We agreed that in the coming days the United Nations and the African Union will send a joint assessment mission to Sudan."
Brahimi said the mission, including military experts, would start work in Khartoum and then go to Darfur where he said it would assess the immediate needs of the AU force.
It "would also undertake an assessment of all the requirements for a possible transition from the AU to the UN", he told reporters in Khartoum.
In New York, UN chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said no date had yet been set for the assessment mission's departure.
"Brahimi added that the assessment mission's activities would be undertaken without prejudging future decisions of the Government of National Unity in Sudan, the African Union and the UN may take on Darfur," Dujarric said.
(Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)
May 25 2006 Bloomberg report: Sudan Agrees to Let UN Go to Darfur to Plan for Peacekeeping (Update 2) - Brahimi described the agreement as a "positive first step." Today's accord to send the assessment mission was "without prejudice" to any future decision by the government on whether to allow deployment of the peacekeepers, he said. "The Sudanese government has the right at any moment to reject the work of the UN in Darfur," Brahimi said in remarks in Arabic that were translated by a UN interpreter. UN forces would not attempt to "bring back colonialism to Darfur," he said, nor would they be an invasion force comparable to the US occupation of Iraq. Deployment would depend on the "consent and acceptance" of the Sudanese authorities, he said.
May 25 2006 AP report (Mohamed Osman) via Guardian UN Envoy in Sudan for Peacekeeping Talks - "This joint mission of the United Nations and the African Union will start with detailed and wide-ranging consultations in Khartoum,'' said Lakhdar Brahimi. Shortly before Brahimi spoke at a news conference, Sudanese FM Lam Akol said Sudan wants a potential UN force to play a far smaller role in Darfur than some members of the Security Council have envisioned. "Any forces if that is agreed upon would be a force for supervision and not a force for peace implementation," he said. Separately Thursday, the UN mission to Sudan said that government forces were increasingly tackling groups that hijack NGO vehicles in North Darfur, and have detained militiamen.
May 25 2006 BBC (Jonah Fisher in Khartoum) report: Sudan 'closer' to UN Darfur plan - Mr Brahimi said a joint UN and AU team would arrive in the next few days. Sudan still does not accept that a UN force in Darfur is inevitable. At a press briefing in Khartoum, FM Lam Akol said that further political discussion was needed, and that only after those meetings could technical preparations be made.
May 25 2006 UPI report: UN envoy: Sudan agrees to assess team - Brahimi said the joint mission will start with consultations in Khartoum and go to Darfur to assess needs of the African Mission in Sudan since it will have the initial responsibility of facilitating implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement reached May 5 in Abuja, Nigeria.
The envoy said he had to overcome fears voiced by Khartoum's leadership that the team's presence could prejudice future decisions by signatories to the Darfur accord on whether there was an actual peacekeeping deployment, and concerns Darfur was about to be invaded by foreign forces.
The veteran envoy assured the leaders "the United Nations is not in the business of imposing its presence on anyone" and that a UN operation in Darfur would be an extension of the world organisation's present 10,000 member mission for south Sudan.
May 25 2006 Statement by the White House - President Bush will welcome President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to the White House May 31, 2006 and will recognise Rwanda's contributions to peacekeeping contributions in Sudan.