Excerpt from AP report by Alfred de Montesquiou via CBS June 22, 2006 UN head of peacekeeping downplays Sudan rejection of troops to calm Darfur
"Obviously, we would like to hear a different opinion," UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Gehenno told The Associated Press shortly after meeting al-Bashir. "We want to believe that this is not the end of the road."
Gehenno was ending a two-week visit to Darfur and Khartoum with some 40 UN and African Union experts to plan for a large UN force to take over peacekeeping in Darfur. Gehenno said he had assured the Sudanese president that the UN had no "hidden agenda." "There are many misunderstandings about the UN's goals in Darfur that we are trying to solve with the Sudanese government," said Gehenno.
Gehenno said the priority would be to strengthen the 7,000-strong AU force. He confirmed that the UN still hoped to send its own peacekeeping mission by early 2007. The chief peacekeeper also insisted that UN peacekeepers would "only go to Darfur in full cooperation from the Sudanese government." There has been "a slight improvement" in the situation since the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement last month between the region's main rebel group and the government, Gehenno said. But he said the situation was precarious and infighting among rebel factions had cut off over 100,000 people from humanitarian assistance.
Presidential adviser Majzoub Khalifa said the government believes letting in the UN could destablize Sudan. "We do not want Darfur to become a new Iraq," he said, claiming tribal leaders in Darfur had warned authorities they would form insurgency groups against UN peacekeepers.
President Bush, who has called for the United Nations to take over peacekeeping in Darfur, reiterated Wednesday that he viewed the government-backed attacks on civilians there as genocide. "I care deeply about those who have been afflicted by these renegade bands of people who are raping and murdering," he said at a summit with European leaders in Vienna. In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli pressed for Sudan to accept the U.N. force. "As long as violence continues in Darfur, the Sudanese Government is going to be held responsible, regardless of the circumstances," the spokesman said.
Deploying UN troops is crucial to salvaging the brittle peace deal signed by the Sudanese government and the main Darfur rebel movement, which has warned the agreement will collapse without the peacekeeping force.